Yes to cars, but not like this

Manifesto for the elimination of car advertisements

We love cars. It’s incredible that these artefacts capable of transporting us at such speed have been invented, and that every European family could have one or more. This is such a part of our lives that we hardly notice the enormous technical and social complexity that it entails. 

Yet we hardly notice its disadvantages either. The 4,363 million euros invested in Europe by car brands each year make sure of that.

Advertising is not, as marketing schools make out, free information which the public can decide to pick up or not. It is a visual assault which acts to associate a consumer product with a desirable emotion, and all in the interests of the advertiser. On ceasing to value things for their utility, we consume more often, and we accept higher prices. 

In the case of the automobile, advertising promotes an identification with freedom, tech, success, sport, luxury, adventure, sexual accomplishment and even sustainability. In your day to day, in the street, in the magazines, on the internet, on the TV, we see shiny advertised vehicles which roll, solitary, through the city or countryside, without traffic lights or gridlocks, driven by characters which represent the ‘magical properties’ which the car bestows on us at the moment of its purchase: modern, intelligent and independent. 

By way of these associations, advertising makes the stress, noise, pollution, economic weight and lack of space that a car entails bearable. It engineers the general public’s collective use of cars and reticence to any change in this model of transport, a public who will interpret any such proposal as a reduction of those qualities associated with the automobile. Campaigns by environmentalist groups or governmental attempts to restrict traffic will always come up against a citizenry seduced by advertising, especially given that mass media don’t publish negative stories about the businesses that provide them with advertising revenue. 

The only way to combat this reticence to a sustainable model of transport which would make spaces more humane and distances shorter, and which wouldn’t contribute to climate change or provoke respiratory diseases, is to put an end to the advertising of cars. Only in this way will we see the automobile for what it is: a magnificent machine to transport people and things when necessary, not a cluster of ethereal values inculcated in us by advertising with which we look to satisfy our unfulfilled aspirations.

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