Now you don’t see it any more…

This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 27.

Call me a night owl, but far too often I find that I know I’m awake too late by the strains of Sailing By and Gale Force 8 in South Utseira wafting from Radio 4. It was not unusual therefore to hear the tail end of the midnight national news on October 13. The last item was that a complaint about Peugeot from RoSPA and Cambridge Cycling Campaign had been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority.

We knew in advance this was going to happen, but given our first complaint had registered zero on the national interest scale, I was surprised indeed to hear it making the national news. And again at 6 am, 7 am and 8 am the next morning.

The advert was the one I described last time: a splash of water from a puddle suspended in mid air and no car in sight along the straight road ahead, as if the car had gone so fast that it had gone out of sight before the water could subside. The company said that it was one of a series of ads with the theme ‘magical disappearances’ (just what you associate with cars, yes?) and they hadn’t realised it could be associated with implications of speed (pull the other one). The only words in the advert were ‘Now you see it, now you don’t.’ That sums up the fate of the advert itself now, I suppose.

I admire the advertising agency’s ingenuity and sophistication. It is a shame that they can’t put it to more productive use.

There are two more adverts that caught my eye in the Radio Times for the week of 30 October. The first is for a Jaguar, employing the same device as so many other car makers at the moment: a blurred background, to suggest speed. The text reads ‘Suddenly weekends are a blur again… Ah, the excitement, the thrill, the uninhibited freedom of yesterday…’. The car is on the wrong side of the road on a sharp corner.

The second is perhaps even more blatant: an Isuzu 4×4 parked outside a ‘Bistro Français’. The text is ‘A 4×4 for those who’d rather dine on snails than drive them. Forget a mollusc-like life in the slow lane. The 4×4 trooper will take off down the motorway to your favourite restaurant français at a performance car 0-62 in 9.2 seconds…’ Fortunate there aren’t any cyclists around on the motorway then, isn’t it (not too many Bistro Français service areas either come to that)?

David Earl