A reader sent in an intriguing ad for Portland-based OnPoint Community Credit Union. It features a young boy a bike, looking up to his dad wearing a suit and standing next to a car. The tagline reads, “From two wheels to four wheels — Pave the way for your young driver with an OnPoint auto loan.”
The ad struck us as a bit strange. The term “young driver” was odd and so was the basic assumption that all kids are just biding their time until they can get a real vehicle (one with four wheels and a motor). Here in Portland — where many families manage with no car at all, Safe Routes to Schools programs reach thousands of kids each year, and plans for major bikeway investments are on the table — the future holds hope for a city where many kids may not want to go from “two wheels to four”.
On that note, I recently came across an Associated Press story highlighted in the Copenhagenize blog earlier this month. The story reported on a trend in Japan where auto sales are on the decline because they’re falling out of favor with young people. They have even coined an interesting word to describe the phenonmenon– “demotorization”.
Here’s an excerpt:
“A lifestyle choice automakers are calling “demotorization,” many Japanese youth feel owning a car in a congested and expensive city such as Tokyo is more trouble than its worth, and choose public transportation instead.”
I realize that public transit in Japan is far beyond what it is in Portland and we don’t quite yet have the transit/bikeway network that makes the “demotorization” lifestyle choice quite as easy. But, I still think making an assumption that kids on bikes are nothing more than “young drivers” is, well, missing the point.
Some people are lucky enough to be able to meet all their transportation needs with just a bicycle.
For the vast majority of people though it is a watershed moment in their lives. Not only do they not have to depend on their parents for rides to friends houses, they can finally seek employment (which is hard to find at the moment) anywhere in the metro area.
Not that I’m a car fanatic, I ride my bike to work every day and absolutely love it. But I also realize that a college education afforded me the choice of choosing to be employed close to where I live, not a luxury many have. This post smacks a bit of bike fanaticism, a point of view that is nice for well-educated well-off people but doesn’t consider the realities of many.
In Detroit, this is exactly the mindset. Microsoft ran an ad a few years ago showing a young programmer (mid 20s) whose life in changed by using Visual Studio (a Microsoft programming suite). The upper panel (before) shows him with a picture of his bike in the background and his bike helmet on the cabinet behind his desk. Two women are talking to each other and ignoring him, and he’s dressed in typically northwest fashion, with an unbuttoned collared shirt over a plain T. The lower panel (after) shows him much more stylishly dressed, the women paying attention to him and his desk clear of its previous clutter except for his BMW keys. A picture of the car sits in place of the previous picture of the bike.
Ad agencies are associating success with the car, and intimating that people ride bikes because they HAVE to, not because they want to – bikes are associated with lower income. This message is increasingly at odds with reality, which is why they’re having trouble continuing to market to the younger set.
The more progressive ad agencies are already sensing this trend and moving with it, but the bulk of the industry, like this ad, is behind the times.
car-centric peeps on the move with these ads.
This is something that I wonder about all the time. For so long, cars have been intrinsically associated with the American Dream (particularly in the Midwest, where I grew up). Owning an expensive car seems inextricably tied to success, achievement, having “arrived.” Will bicycles ever be part of the American Dream?
Breesa…some bikes already say that the rider has “arrived”…I mean, please, check the price tag on a new Madone or Cervelo P4….they are not for everyone.
its an add for an auto loan folks…hardly something to get all worked up about…
auto loans aren’t going away…howver I believe there was a similar add for microcredit for purchasing bikes on this website a few weeks back…
honestly….whats the difference?
i think you’re projecting your own pre-conceived notions of what you expect to read on this site, versus the reality of what is written. I didn’t spell it out in the story (perhaps I should have), but I hope you realize that I am not an anti-car “fanatic”.
I am however, someone who feels like it’s long overdue that our society weens itself from it auto overuse habit. I want to live in a city where it’s safe and pleasant for everyone to be on the streets and enjoy the fruits of urban life… without suffering from the many negative impacts our over-reliance on cars has wrought.
bahueh, totally missing the point. This isn’t about auto loans or bike loans. It’s about perpetuating the idea that cars are a necessary part of “growing up”.
They are definitely a part of my dream. I used to have five bikes, now I only have three (I sold two and now I miss them) I sometimes think a slick townie style bike would be fun for commuting. Currently I commute on a road bike, cross bike or an older track bike. I like the cruiser style bikes with the in-hub gears, with some nice attractive baskets and styling fenders. What is your dream bike?
Spot on, Jonathan. It’s not the fact that there are car loans at all that’s the problem with the ad, it’s the idea that it’s part of the natural progression of one’s life to “graduate” to a car.
OMG! A business is trying to drum up some…business. In a slow economy? The horror!!!
Jonathan – slow bike news week? Car loan ads and some local BikeSnobNYC wannabe are now grave threats to Portland’s bike scene?
I can’t wait for tomorrow’s hard hitting piece that hot weather discourages “interested but concerned” potential riders. Perhaps Metro should use $100 million in federal money to build a weather controlling machine?
Now I am going to put on some skinny jeans and walk my bike eight blocks to the bank and see if I can financed for a new SUV with a sweet bike rack on it.
Not sure why you have such a mean tone against me. Not every story I share is hard news…or is published as a “grave threat” to the bike scene.
I simply found this ad interesting and wanted to share it, and the demotorization story, with the community.
Thanks for reading. Sorry the story does not meet your expectations.
One ironic thing about teen driving that I noticed when I was youger: many kids get jobs so they can buy a car, so they can get to work… Sounds like a lose/lose situation!
Missing the point, perhaps, but for 75 years or so graduating at sixteen to a automobile driver has been one of the fundamental building blocks of our (until recently) staggeringly successful capitalist economy / society. It’s no surprise that the financial services industry would be loathe to give that up.
What I find so unfortunate is how quickly many former cyclists rid themselves of awareness and tolerance of cyclists on the roadways. We have a local talk radio host who frequently rants about cyclists – he moved here from elsewhere and seems to want to remake the northwest into the aggressive loud-mouthed intolerant east, and getting the bikes out of his way is the first step. A couple of weeks ago, while on a completely different topic (old school video games) he casually said that he used to ride his bike five miles to the mall to play Battlezone.
I could have screamed.
Back to the notion of young cyclists as future young drivers, childhood cycling is the training ground of future traffic participants (whether motorized or not); hazzard awareness, understanding of right of way, predictable lane behavior, these are all necessary skills and the gravity we give them early on pays dividends later. I don’t think we’re doing a very good job right now. Bicycles straddle the line between childrens’ toys and serious road-worthy vehicles, and that nebulousness doesn’t help us.
One last thing. I really envy you Portlanders. The depth of your local government’s commitment to making cycling work and the level of discussion here on this site appears to me at least to be totally fantastic. (don’t tell anyone I said so…)
Jeez, what’s with the comment rage people? Overreacting much?
The ad strikes me as a bit odd. What is a local company doing portraying a bike as a child’s toy and a car as “grown up”? I’m just curious. I would expect it of BMW, but not somebody local. If I were an On Point customer I would feel a little dissed.
This is not a commentary on society. This is a Credit Union trying to make money. They make money off of car loans. How much money do they make off of bike loans? People are reading WAY too much into this. That anyone could feel ‘dissed’ by this is unimaginable to me (IMHO).
Has anyone here ever been to business school or majored in copy writing?
Think about how much a decent car costs you. Think about how nice of a commuter bike with all the gear you need to make your commute comfortable year round costs. I know which investment makes more sense to me.
the heat does get everyone’s panties in a wad.
i appreciate the question being raised, as I have pondered it myself as a father of a 5yo. back home (in SE TX), being able to drive was Huge. a ticket to the outside world. i do wonder what happens when my daughter turns 16 and whether or not we will have progressed enough with alternate modes for her not to even want to drive. i daydream that the arguments are more about whether she gets to ride a fixie with no breaks. back home, we didn’t have public transit either, so there is a significant amount of freedom right there before they even turn driving age.
Along similar lines, can someone please try to gloss for me that billboard on Hawthorne, around 45th? It’s for some damn bank, and it portrays a man in silhouette, a mountain bike on his shoulder. The headline reads “You look like you could use a really good bank.” What the hell does that even mean? Does he need a good bank because he’s stuck with a bike? Or his bike is broken, and he needs a loan to repair it? Or are they just hoping people will say “bike… bank… I like bikes! Good bank!” I puzzled over this billboard for about twenty minutes before deciding it was just a failed concept. Anyone have a better interpretation?
This reminds me of something I came across in Quicken. Some spending categories are labeled as discretionary. But the Auto category defaults to a Mandatory Expense with a checkbox indicating that Spending is not discretionary.
Borrowing the from amos #8, “It’s about perpetuating the idea that cars are a necessary part” of life.
Yeah, the ad does have a certain creepy, Orwellian element to it. I can relate to the comments about one’s first car being a rite of passage and the freedom that comes with it, but I think a big part of getting your first car is saving the money to buy it without a loan, or at least that’s how it was for my generation.
What I find creepy about the ad is that it seems to be inviting young adults to enslave themselves in a realm of debt and servitude: in a way the bicycle represents a simple, affordable, debt-free lifestyle, and the bank wants people to give that up in exchange for an expensive, consumerist lifestyle where debt is a way of life and you absolutely must work no matter what.
I’m 19 and I’ve never had a car, or a driver’s license (or permit for that matter) even though I grew up in Beaverton (but have since moved to an apartment in SE, much better for a car-free lifestyle). I just… never saw the point. I go to PSU right now and driving would just cost too much–even if I had a free car with free gas and free insurance, the PARKING would cost more than a bus pass.
That’s a pretty tone deaf ad agency. That this got approved for the Portland market is amazing.
If I was a bank in this town I would try and sell bike loans – I can see it now…
Some Junior out at PIR staring longingly at some Masters Scott Addict with Shimano di2, Edge wheels & Powertap.
“From training wheels to race wheels”
“Pave the way for your young rider with an Onpoint bike loan”
I agree with a lot of the posters on here that state getting a car is a huge milestone in one’s life. I remember growing up in Montana and riding my bike to driver’s ed class and someone I know told me that I can’t ride my bike to driver’s ed class because that will tell everybody that I don’t have a license. (Yes, I know…. he was not a very bright guy but he thought he was and he was a star athlete so he got treated as such). I didn’t listen to him and continued to ride my bike. But, when I had the money saved to finally buy a car, I really left the bike behind. Gas wasn’t expensive then, there was often snow and ice, and it did provide a certain sense of freedom and it was just easier than biking in my mind.
It wasn’t until I moved here 5 years ago where I started to ride again because, like Alexis, I was going to PSU and parking was too expensive and it took just as long on bike as it did on bus.
Now I realize that OnPoint is a Portland company and Portland is known as a bike city, but I live next to a family with two teenage girls that live maybe 6 blocks from Grant High. They drive there. One works at the Baskin Robbins about 6 blocks away. She drives her car there.
I just think in the US (that includes Portland), cars are still a symbol of freedom and a rite of passage for people. And, having a car when you are a teen does wonders to your popularity.
Perhaps we ought to find a way to work with OnPoint to make a bike friendly ad. I am sure they would be game for it as they want business.
amosl..you’re missing the point…its an advertisement for a car loan.
assigning any deeper meaning is one a projection of your social values…
peejay..I know for a fact that you own a car….were you not excited to get your license at one point?
lets not forget…
You mean this one?
I spotted it in Oregon City. I agree with you.. it’s is quite ambiguous. At first I thought it was a jab at people who don’t have a car, but then realized… maybe they’re marketing specifically toward the bike riding market? jury is still out.
I work with a guy who recently had his car in the shop for three weeks and he was forced to use public transportation during that time. After a few days he began telling me how “great” it was to have somebody else do the driving, and that it took just as long to get to work and back as it did when he drove.
So I began asking him why he doesn’t just get rid of the car (which at this point he realized would cost him over $1000 to fix) and I was met by a Homer Simpson blink every one of the five times I mentioned it.
I have to wonder if my co-worker would have even considered going car-free if he wasn’t subjected to the perceived notion that one MUST have a car.
I’m Not saying cars are bad or that everyone in America should get rid of theirs, but you have to wonder how many folks out there really don’t need a car, but have one almost like a security blanket they feel the must own.
…fiat at least tried to make their ad funny:
I agree with bahueh. This ad is about a bank trying to sell business. They make more money at this time off of auto-loans than microfinance. It is the bank’s capital needs that enforce its desire for high cost consumption. In order to promote their need, they need to convince the public of the desirability of getting into high long-term debt.
The semiotic presentation in the ad is secondary to that.
That add is crEEpy The billboard too (I saw it the other day)!! Its all just creeepy propoganda
the future (#29) – that’s priceless, and possibly going to start a whole ‘nother conversation in this thread…
Gosh, bahueh, it’s like you didn’t read my comment at all. And it’s not just a little creepy that you know for a fact I have a car.
That mail card from OnPoint features some fairly uninspired copy written/thought up by someone that doesn’t ride a bike and likely drives a luxury/high-end car to the office.
People are SUPPOSED to “read into” marketing messages. That’s the whole point. OnPoint won’t be making any “sales” to most of the folks here on BikePortland because we don’t share the “world view” of the intended audience. We are not the audience.
However, I think analysis of the ad as perpetuating the notion of a car-centric society are spot on.
We could go around and around on this, but the bottom line is simply that the advertisement is trying to appeal to dads that look forward to the day when they can buy their son his first car. A rite of passage for many US males.
P.S. KruckyBoy #16– yes, I’m in the business of marketing/advertising/branding so I know what I’m talking about.
That last billboard should say looks like your going to need a seat bag.. LOL sorry
the heat is getting to me 🙂
I looked at a bike last week that a guy was selling on craigslist. It was an old mountain bike that he had bought used 4 years ago in a “failed” attempt at weight loss (his choice of words.) Now his son was riding it but wanted something more up to date (i.e. with indexed shifting). Thus the sale. The dad, however, was encouraging his son to save for a car instead. I kept my mouth shut, but it made me kinda sad for the kid.
Yes, business is business, and what MY credit union is clearly trying to do here is to drum up some. In a recession, any business that has a “product” to sell is scraping the bottom of the barrel for new customers and new sources of revenue. I get that.
On the other hand, while OnPoint didn’t invent the car-centric ads that help to perpetuate the drivers-license-as-rite-of-passage, they’re also doing nothing to steer us towards a more car-free/car-lite future with this ad.
For a credit union that gets it, see Unitus (who offer financing on bicycles). Meanwhile, I plan to pay a visit to my credit union and ask them to consider offering incentives for their customers who live car-free/car-lite, and see what they say.
“However, I think analysis of the ad as perpetuating the notion of a car-centric society are spot on.”
I think what some posters are getting at, is that we ARE a car-centric society.
Someone remind me of our mode share split again? Especially in the winter?
I find no fault in Jonathan posting this and I share many commenters feelings that moving away from car as rite of passage is a noble ideal. That said, we are nowhere near realizing that ideal. Not even remotely close, in fact.
Cars are, and will be a rite of passage for 16 year olds for a very long time. Our society is built around the nasty things and critiquing a business for acknowledging reality is a bit insane.
Someone needs to cross out “bank” on that billboard and replace it with “beer.”
Double-dog dare ya!!
So can anyone tell me how many ‘bike loans’ there are a year vs ‘car loans’, and how much revenue each type makes?
oh, peejay, its not a big deal, I own a car too.
I’m simply pointing out the hypocrisy..
Yeah, bahueh says this issue is something you shouldn’t get “worked up about,” but he has 5 posts on this thread. Speaking of hypocrisy…
oh, Esta, you’re back….joy.
what can i say, its a slow day at work…
my BP is hardly up however…
I like messing with peejay…he knows who I am, he just doesn’t know that he konws…
I would prefer to commute by bike or public transit. But its just not an option for me with my current job schedule. I work in Hillsboro and live in east Portland.
I really wish there was an express service from Portland to Hillsboro. There used to be.. 48X, from downtown Portland straight to the area where I work at in about 30 minutes. But since the westside max went in, they stopped all of the express bus services to the ‘burbs. Max takes 1hr to reach the closet stop.
Can’t we just settle for the smug sense of superiority we cyclists have that these motor-heads’ days are numbered?
They’ll get theirs when the oil runs out.
It’s obvious from the demagogue “talk” radio shows that they will not believe that they could possibly be wrong until their own personal apocalypse is staring them in the face.
In the mean time, just ignore the sinister smirk on my face.
When you consider how dangerous young drivers are to themselves and others (especially cyclists), this marketing campaign is way off the mark. It doesn’t take much to get a marketing degree though – just your soul.
steve #38 wrote:
“moving away from car as rite of passage is a noble ideal. That said, we are nowhere near realizing that ideal. Not even remotely close, in fact.
Cars are, and will be a rite of passage for 16 year olds for a very long time. Our society is built around the nasty things and critiquing a business for acknowledging reality is a bit insane.”
Steve, we will never realize a different ideal with people like you seeing it as unattainable. I do think we should hold businesses to a higher standard of social consciousness. Their thoughts and opinions go out to a large audience and help set standards within society, especially to a younger audience. Businesses need to make money, but there are classy and socially responsible ways of achieving these same results. OnPoint couldve left out the right-of-passage child/adult message and stayed more “on point” with the actual product they are offering. But, its all about sensationalism and tugging at someone’s heartstrings in order to evoke consumerism.
I will never own or drive a car until my knees, heart, back, and wrists give out. I’ll be 75 when I purchase my first car most likely!
I remember seeing a commercial for Auto Zone. This kid finds an abondoned car with a sign that states if you can fix it, you can keep it. He rides his bike to Auto Zone several times to get parts and gets it running. He finally drives it to Auto Zone and says something to the fact that he was that it was not on his bike. Now the irony is that I think I saw it several times when watching the Tour de France.
I find that commercial much less ‘offensive’ as some kid accomplished something and worked hard to save something from a landfill. This ad just teaches a teenage kid that if you don’t have the money, just go get a loan and go into debt.
I think that is what starts the circle — if you have a car as a 16-year old, you need to work to pay gas and insurance, for which you need a car…
About being stuck without a car: It’s a root course – we let cars ‘drive’ our city planning. The result are suburbs without social support infrastructure.
So we don’t only need to share the road – we should also think about how we can rework the suburbs to make them more than only bedroom communities.