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What is the French for Va Va Voom?

14 January, 2022

An answer to Thierry Henry’s timeless question posed in the Renault advert could now be ‘think about lift sharing’.  

Under a new French law, car ads will have to carry the anti-pollution hashtag #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer and advice to consider cycling, walking, public transport, or lift-sharing instead. It is part of President Macron’s battle against car pollution ahead of an entire ban on adverts for the most polluting SUVs from 2028, and the sale of petrol-driven vehicles in 2035. 

Although there has been backlash from the automotive industry, this move is an important intervention in a holistic approach to combatting car emissions.  

There are plenty of examples of products and services where any communication goes hand in hand with warnings about harmful consequences. Campaigns for gambling are stamped with ‘begambleaware.org’, alcohol adverts come with health warnings, whilst tobacco has to be in plain packaging without any branding at all.  

It makes sense for marketers of climate change contributing products to operate in the same way. Advertising is a powerful tool in driving a particular behaviour or additional consumption. Research from the Badvertising campaign highlights how demand for SUVs is higher when people are exposed to advertising for them.  

Changing consumer behaviour around car ownership and driving is a big and important challenge. That means we need to come at it from all sides – of course we need affordable electric vehicles, and better charging networks, and regulation and political action. But reaching consumers through marketing and communications has a role to play too. 

And on that front, France is speeding ahead, raising the question of whether other countries can keep up? 

By Alice Railton

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