[Scroll down to see how readers have re-made the ad.]
Zipcar, the nation’s largest and most well-known car-sharing service (that just had an IPO), has long positioned themselves as a bike-friendly company; but a new advertisement has some people scratching their heads.
Check out the big banner graphic that’s running on Zipcar.com…
Come on Zipcar; why make bikes look bad just to make a buck? I thought we were friends. And why use a car when a simple set of panniers or a front rack would do the trick?
Bike touring expert, photographer, and former Portlander Russ Roca, who knows a thing or two about low-car living, instantly went to work on his own versions of the ad:
Want to create one too? Our friend Tomas Quinones made a version of the image with a blank background for your convenience…
Feel free to Photoshop and caption to you heart’s content… And if any readers have friends at Zipcar, maybe drop them a line and point out how ridiculous that ad is.
Reader Shane from Eugene sent in his mock-up:
And here’s one from Natalie:
And yet another:
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Send them an email at email@example.com to express your disappointment. I just did. Or contact General Manager Jeremy Nelson locally at 503.328.3539.
I love the poster that Russ made- “Sometimes you just need a bicycle.” I’d like to see zipcar run that add.
That reminds me. I need to buy something from Russ or Laura.
Come on Zipcar! WTF?!?
Me too – thanks for the link.
did anyone stop to think that inflamitory adds fuel discussion, increasing name recognition, i.e., free advertising for the initiator?
silence is better than golden.
yep, i think we did. no reason not to call them out for it anyways. maybe if no one had heard of them before then this would be free advertising, but i don’t think that applies here.
The only people that are going to be inflamed by this are cyclist who are most likely quite aware of the brand name.
The sad thing is that they are alienating the market segment they are most likely to expand in to: non-auto owning cyclists.
Non-cyclists won’t bat an eye at anti-bicycle propaganda. What’s worse for Zipcar is that it reinforces to the hard core auto owner that they HAVE TO have a car because nothing else will do.
So they have simultaneously given a subconscious negative purchase bias towards the larger auto-only market segment while consciously antagonizing the cyclist market.
Zipcar: fire your ad agency!
well, the reality is that sometimes you DO need a car.
the only people getting upset over this are the ones who already have persecution complexes.
I considered the fact that there are times when a car would better meet my needs — I’ve reserved a zipcar for tomorrow, for the second tiem since I signed up. When I have an all-day event 70 miles away, it makes sense to drive it.
So, the picture of a sign with a 70 mile distance and a dayplanner would have made me smile.
Picture of people trying to carry things and look nice reinforces the myth that this doesn’t work on a bike. It also implies I’m a fool for trying. WOnder how much utility cycling you do (actually, I am ;))
Its really tongue-in-cheek now, isn’t it?
But, sometimes you DO need a car. 😛
Then I’d be worried that someone would claim I’m part of a “silent majority.”
BUT, isn’t the ad true, sometimes you just DO need a car?
Yes, sometimes a car is necessary, but not in the situation that they portrayed.
A more realistic situation would be a graphic that shows needing to be at a point 60 miles away in 1.5 hours. Then a car makes a lot of sense…cars are convenient for getting distant places, not for carrying a few pieces of paper and your lunch. Zipcar is clearly playing to a certain demographic of young professionals who are likely to use their services (I use Zipcar occasionally), but this is clearly a situation where a basket or panniers would meet their needs. Also, they are trying to imply that you can’t ride a bike in a suit or “office” clothes…which I do all the time.
Really? I’d be embarrassed by such a display of thin skin.
And last time I checked, photo context not withstanding, many cyclists sometimes do need a car. So where’s the line between admitting this simple fact, and becoming a bore that has to correct every ad graphic that isn’t 100% ideologically pure?
It reminds me of Soviet-era propaganda bureau. The North Koreans should be envious.
Haha yeah this is totally like North Korea. Such an appropriate comparison dude!
The vigor with which ideologues go into attack mode on those with unsanctioned thoughts, you bet. But hey, perhaps Orwellian is more PC.
Those darn ideologues and their attack of this advertisement’s unsanctioned thoughts! Feel free to cite the first Amendment and the “gotcha” media, too.
I like your take, Allen… perhaps we need to learn not to take everything so personal… and it is kind of hard to ride with an architecture model or a cake if you don’t have a trailer, xtracycle or big front rack…
Go cargo bikes…
Haha, yeah, is that the Dear Leader in the background, looking on?
Mao would be so proud.
I don’t think anyone’s debating the text of the ad, only the context.
Really? Nine people think some bike portland readers’ reaction to this is like Soviet era censorship and current North Korean censorship? That’s just sad and shows what a bubble we live in.
Hyperbole much? Spend a couple of days living in a Soviety gulag or a North Korean prison and tell me how some folks who take offense at an ad is just like living under a totalitarian regime. Personally I don’t find the ad all that offensive, but people are just as free to express their opinion about the ad as Zipcar is to publish it.
Sometimes your business needs more than matching single-speeds.
I’m not nearly as offended by this as everyone else seems be. A Zipcar membership is complementary to bicycling and low/no car ownership. Knowing this, I don’t believe the intent of the ad was at all malicious. I just think they got the picture wrong. You don’t really need a car to go to a business meeting, but you might if you want to go furniture shopping.
well put. Some real over sensitive folks here.
The picture is a key aspect to the ad – ask any ad exec. Take away the picture and it’s simply a completely different ad which would probably spawn a different conversation.
For the record, I agree that sometimes you just need a car… But this ad is annoying because it portrays bikes as having no utility and it puts them in a bad light. Why would zipcar want to make bikes look bad? They could do the same ad and make the same point without taking the jab at biking. Zipcar should do everything they can to show biking in a good light – especially since many of their members are people whose primary vehicle is a bike.
The ad group probably considered this a visual and a situation that did, indeed, connect to its large bicycle using users. However, as pointed out, the ad was viewed by many in a light not intended. So…lesson learned, Zipcar.
I found it humorous. However, I think the intended message was lost as it did not connect to the humor, especially because the visual does not create a need for a car.
It’s just a picture. What’s your picture for conveying an instance where it would be nice (ops, impure thought) necessary to have a car?
I agree Allan, but there is an issue that many companies are subtly reinforcing the common perception that bikes are toys, useless, or only for losers. Like this Microsoft Ad from 2007:
OK. But that isn’t the case with Zipcar so choosing to make an issue where there is none shows, at best a thin skin, at worst an Orwellian dogmatism, and most likely the humorlessness of a zealot. All of which I find distasteful and borderline creepy. Regards.
“But that isn’t the case with Zipcar ”
you just asserted that. But the folks on bikes are represented as dupes, as hopelessly wedded to their bikes when they are clearly not the ‘right tool for the job,’ as incomplete without a car. That I think is a slightly milder form of what Matt was getting at.
That is the case with zip car.
PS No YOU’RE borderline creepy…. 😛 🙂
Gonna side with nobody on this issue. Hopefully the human race can decide on the merits of various transportation systems without banners or marketing pushing them any which way.
As a big zipcar user, I’m disappointed in their going for the easy laugh and in showing a situation that is ridiculously simple to address with a pannier.
Now, if they’d shown someone trying to move or carry home a dishwasher or a 4×8 sheet of plywood I think that would be more reasonable. There clearly _are_ people who have the special bike equipment to carry such heavy/ unwieldy loads, but I think there are a lot of people who use bikes for 95% of their transport needs, but who find zipcar a good option for when they do need to move something extraordinary.
Are we really unwilling to admit that riding a bike in a freshly pressed suit with briefcase on a warm day is a recipe for pit stains, extreme sweatiness, and general discomfort? I mean, I’m all for riding whenever possible, including using panniers/trailer/pack/etc, but to get up in arms at the notion that there are certain drawbacks to riding a bike in certain situations seems pretty silly.
I have seen many businessmen wearing suits bicycling. Try riding the NY Subway in the middle of August wearing a suit. You’ll sweat just as much…
Gasp! How could you portray NY Subways in such a negative light? That’s very anti-alternative transportation of you! Also, are you implying that businesswomen don’t ride bikes? That’s sexist!
thousands of people in the netherlands ride in suits daily as do many on bike share systems in this country
Well done, Shane, Russ, and Tomas!
The ad isn’t a huge deal, but it is annoying. It’s like marketing beer to women by telling them “sometimes you just need a man’s drink”–it’s poor logic, kind of insulting, and shows that they aren’t bothering to think on the same level as the people they’re trying to make money from. I think Zipcar–a company that I otherwise have zero qualms with–made a poor choice and that this is a fun way of showing them that.
Here’s my remake of the ad: http://postimage.org/image/1nbsh6kdg/
zero qualms? What about their recent pact with Ford Motor Co. to buy lots of their crappy cars when to date they’ve focused on relatively fuel sipping Hondas and Toyotos?
The Focus is rated for nearly 40mpg highway and is brand new. Its not a Prius downtown, but it compares favorably to the non- hybrid models from Toyota or Honda.
The crappy Fords (28city, 38hwy) comes in 1 mpg lower than your fuel sipping Civic (28-39).
I stand corrected. Thanks.
F-ix O-ften R-epair D-aily
Natalie – love the analogy, and your remake.
I don’t see anything wrong with the ad. Yes, sometimes you need a car….and sometimes you also need panniers. Relax.
I’ve been first a Flexcar, and now a Zipcar user, for many years now, and have been consistently impressed by the great service they offer, as well as their wonderful customer service.
As a cyclist, the ad is a little patronising perhaps, but on the other hand, I’m sure the ad wasn’t meant to be inflammatory per se. I ride a bike for 99.9% of all trips. But sometimes, juuuust sometimes, I DO need a car. Renting twelve foot long skiis from REI for instance! Not all of us have access to a huge bike trailer at the last minute.
I think context is key here. I’m curious whether this was part of a series of photo ads for Zipcar. Other ads could include –
* A pedestrian lugging a chest of drawers down the street about to collapse in a heap
* A soon-to-be carless motorist dropping their car off at the mechanic’s garage for a week
* A hot air balloonist, in the middle of a field, with a hole in the balloon.
To your Balloonist, “Sometimes you just need a patch kit”.
What do you use a 12 foot ski for?
Really Big Air
My thoughts: If I had an interview at OHSU, and I had to wear my suit and take my papers, could I do it on a bike? Sure. However, it’s currently 33C out, and I’d be pretty sweaty by the time I got there. I could pack my suit in a pannier, and try to shower when I got there, but that’s pretty inconvenient, and I only know they have showers because I work there.
Or, I could walk across the street and take a nice, cool ZipCar. I think the ad portrays a great example of when ZipCars are appropriate.
Exactly! I am not going to take a bike to an important interview or if I am at work and have to go several miles to give an important presentation. I think maybe that is what ZipCar may have been trying to portray.
Not all of us cyclist own muliple panniers or burley trailers.
Why not take the bus?
A bus could be a good option. Unless you need to make two transfers and suddenly it adds an hour to your trip.
except if you ride a bike regularly you definitely live within 5 miles of OHSU so a bus is not going to take that much longer
Sorry, I missed the part in the ad where they said that both of those people we’re going to OHSU interviews and that it was 33 degrees out. My bad. Might still have other options though, or did I also miss the part about their destination being inaccessible by public transportation?
If they’re going to an interview at OHSU why are they on a flat. Why not a steep hill?
I live six miles from the tram. Take it easy and you can arrive fresh and lovely if your interview or presentation is in the morning. Just sayin.
Thanks! I’ll try to continue to use my power only for doing good deeds.
Wow. Considering their demographic (non-auto owners), I wonder if the point of the ad is lost by most of the thin skinned and easily offended?
Zipcar is not suggesting people go out and buy vehicles. It is attempting to show that there is an alternative to owning an automobile and using one only when necessary.
Is this really something to get worked up over, or perhaps something we should be supporting? I guess it is easier to get angry and play a victim.
I could understand if a car company posted this ad, but not ZipCar. Wow, is right!
Yes, sometimes you DO need a car
I have to chime in another vote for “I’m a non-car owning cyclist/zipster who doesn’t find this offensive.” Sometimes I just really need a car. That’s why I HAVE a zipcar membership – for when riding my bike isn’t practical. Their ad is for people just like me who ride most of the time and sometimes get a zip.
P.S. I picked up a zipcar to go to a late night show a couple of weeks ago and they left me a gift basket – how cool is that?! I love zipcar – without them I wouldn’t be able to be carless. I’d have to suck it up and own car and carry insurance and deal with the maintenance costs of something I barely used.
FWIW, this is a piece of a larger campaign, one with images showing a shopaholic at a bus stop, two guys with a canoe at a subway/metro platform, musicians on a subway car, and a fellow whose significant other is throwing all his stuff onto the street out of the second storey window of a brownstone.
I agree that the bike visual could have been tweaked to be less obnoxious — such as using the canoe imagery instead — but overall I like the campaign as I feel the implicit message is, “You don’t *always* need a car, just sometimes.”
Wait, so the women in the ads are shopaholics and psycho girlfriends and the guys are canoers, musicians, and unlucky boyfriends?
…And this ad is supposed to appeal to non-car-owning bicyclists who are already comfortable commuting by bike (but know of better situations where they actually would rent a zipcar)…
…And Streetsblog posted an article last month ( http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/08/03/zipcar-takes-the-anti-urban-route/ ) about ZipCar’s disingenuously anti-urban advertising tactics…
Sounds to me like Zipcar isn’t bothering with greenwashing its product anymore and is just going with mainstream advertising tactics: quasi-humorous truisms, stereotypes, and anything that’ll get them a little extra attention.
Who said the shopaholic was a woman or that the musicians were men? Stereotypes?
No, I looked at them. Feel free to do so yourself. zipcar.com
Rather than that, I am boycotting Zipcar. I am buying my Jepp Gran Cherkee today.
That’ll show ’em!
sounds like ‘sometimes you need a delivery service’ (as was the case in cities before total auto domination)
Looks like they should have had a V-8 this morning.
On Friday, I hauled 20 gallons of heavy deck restore stuff home from a big box home improvement store in a Zipcar Prius. THAT was a time I needed a car–I should have invited their photographer over.
Sometimes you don’t need a car!! 🙂
Here are my two:
ahahahhah, thanks Jonathan! I would have spent more time on it if I knew you were gonna post it! These are extremely fun. I hope you post photoshop projects in the future!
I think the theme is good and bike friendly. Just poorly executed. Should have shown them doing something that couldn’t easily be done by bike.
yep, that’s what I was thinking in my first image.
I have sent an email to both:
firstname.lastname@example.org and Kaleb Miller <email@example.com. They need to know that spitting on their customers is unacceptable. If they don't want me as a customer any more (4+ years) fine.
Doesn’t it really boil down to one’s mindset? Zipcar is in the business of being there/convincing us that at times they are there for you. This dovetails very nicely with our gradually dawning realization that we can really do a whole lot of stuff without a car, and certainly without owning a car.
But, really, do we ‘sometimes need a car’? I think that is a question we’ll argue about forever. I’m working on setting up a small inner-SE bike trailer rental business because I think this offers another solution to exactly the problem we’re talking about here. Part of the answer is having good technical-infrastructural options; another part is about what we’re used to or comfortable with. I can haul just about anything on my bike trailers that someone else needs a Zipcar for. But I also understand–and don’t expect–that this is for everyone. Making a wide variety of bike trailers more available to me seems like a way to fill this gap for some folks.
The word “need” is often misrepresented. It is a much more powerful word than how most of us use it today.
I was thinking the same thing. “Want” would be more correct, but “need” allows the customer to feel less guilty.
I think it upsets most “car free” folks because it pokes them right in their hypocrisy. The fact is that they DO occasionally need the use of an automobile. Zipcar stands to fulfill that need and provides a valuable service for the otherwise car free individual. On the other hand, you could just continue to bum the use of a car or truck off of your friends that you simultaneously look down your nose at for owning the raging steel cage of a fume belcher.
are you saying this as someone who is quote-car free-unquote? It kind of doesn’t sound like it. What is with the ‘hypocrisy’ epithet?
Would you rather those folks who claim to be quote-carfree-unquote didn’t bother? Would you rather they had a car? Why not appreciate that they’re trying to live without a car, and perhaps even doing a helluva job at it? Why the suspicion, the gotcha tone?
What is in your view hypocritical about living without a car 95% or 98% of the time and catching rides or renting a zipcar the rest? Do you dream in black and white?
So Zipcar should launch a campaign applauding those who do not and would not use their service?
Perhaps they could just give their advertising dollars to me and I can spend it on burritos for feral cats.
not so fast. Here’s how zipcar presents itself vis-a-vis how their business coincides with people driveing less, biking and taking public transit more:
Key findings from the survey include:
Eighteen percent of respondents have sold their vehicles since joining Zipcar, and 46 percent stated that they have avoided buying a car.
Seventy-two percent said being a Zipcar member made it less likely they would buy or lease a car in the future, which could result in fewer personally owned vehicles across the city competing for parking spots.
The number of Zipsters taking five or more car trips in a month has decreased from 38 percent, to 12 percent, and the number of respondents driving fewer than 500 miles per month has increased by more than 17 percent.
Fourteen percent bike more, 21 percent walk more, and 11 percent use public transportation more. More than a third of respondents say they use public transit to get to a Zipcar.
YEAH! Kitties are cute but they prefer cheeseburgers:)
Playing the victim.
…Do you guys ever wonder where your rhetoric comes from? You’re doing every conservative bigot who hired a thinktank to turn those concepts into insults a huge favor every time you regurgitate them.
Since when is “thin skinned” just rhetoric? It sounds descriptive (and accurate in this case) to me.
Imagine a situation where someone you respect really WAS being thin skinned in your opinion, and they were offended by something that you feel does not merit their over-zealous response… how would you communicate that to them?
Without any “rhetoric” :p
Huh? Is it “thin skinned” to respond to an ad that portrays cycling falsely? Speak for yourself, please; if speaking up for myself is thin-skinned, then I’m proud of it. Maybe you just think “it isn’t nice” (remembering Malvina ;))
Sometimes you just need new infrastructure.
Until we have that, sometimes folks will just need a car.
(Still, I love Russ’ “bike” poster and would buy one to frame if I could.)
Sometimes, you just need a backpack
Wow, come on guys, this is not a big deal. There are actual bike unfriendly companies and entities out there that we should direct our energies toward — I don’t think Zipcar is one of them.
This only poses a problem for people who self-identify so unilaterally with the Portland bike-rider brand that this has to be taken as a personal affront. Diversify your life, see it as a goofy picture and move on.
I don’t see a problem with this ad. I know of one bike advocate, car-free type who regularly asks to borrow someones car to take his kids to the beach, or other activity. I think the message from Zip is right on.
Doh! Now I’ve finally figured it out. That guy is carrying swimsuits and an umbrella in his briefcase. And I thought he was going to work.
The only thing I really wish about Zipcar is that all their cars had a bikerack on the back/roof as standard!
Unless the Zipcar near my house is free, I often have to bike to the Zipcar I’ve reserved fifteen blocks away to pick it up, and then put the seats down and put my bike in the back, drive back to my house, take the bike out, put the seats back up. Then I’m ready to roll in the Zipcar!
If you think about it, the flipside of what is being said by the ad is that most of the time you don’t need a car. This didn’t even register on my offense-o-meter.
Let’s consider this is probably a national ad. Not all cities that Zip Car is located has up to an 8% bike commuter rate. We don’t own cargo bikes and some of us (gasp) don’t have kids so we don’t have an bike trailer in our garage.
If I saw this ad first in a magazine instead of here, it would not even have been an issue.
First they laugh at you and belittle you, then they fight you, then you win.
We’re just at the starting point…
Let’s just all remember that Zipcar is a for-profit company looking to make a buck any way they can. If they seem to have been friendly to bicyclists in the past, it’s only because they thought there was some profit to be made with that group… They are not necessarily interested in getting people to drive less – they really just want people to drive THEIR cars.
I think a better ad would be to show a zipcar with a bikes on a bike rack which some of them have.
sometimes you just need b-line
The angst here is all about the image Zipcar wants to portray. 1st and foremost a private busness cares about profit and as self important as we feel here in Portland we are still a MINORTY.
If Zipcar wants to spend their advertising budget in the most profitable way they need to spend it on the MAJORITY which are auto driver who have never considered a bicycle a valid transportation device.
What this ad does wrong is t highlight the disadvantage of not just bicycles but of not owning your own auto full time.
Playing the powerful angle of envy of your peers against fear of being unprepared they are unintentionally telling their BIGGEST POTENTIAL market growth segment “you can’t win without a car and you’ll never know when you’ll need one.”
Portraying the auto as the status symbol that it unforntunately is and the fear of being without can only lead the target demographic to want a vehicle all to them self.
Zipcar’s self sabotage is done on the heels of denegrating cycling IN THE EYES of the majority: this makes it disgusting on top of stupid.
and sometimes cyclists just need a sense of humor.
I thought the AD was cute, but again it takes a fully trained dominatrix to get my panties in a bunch.
That’s part of a rotating display. Others show a band with their instruments on a train, a woman waiting for a bus, and a guy getting his stuff thrown out of a window by his ex-girlfriend.
Should we get bent out of shape about an apparent jab at public-transit? Or maybe people throwing guitars out of a window?
This is a little out of proportion, folks. Sometimes having access to a car is indeed handy. We don’t all need to be driving around all the time, but being able to transport large, heavy, bulky items easily by car when you need to is okay.
Few people here are arguing that point. What I think many, though, are saying is that it is unfortunate if not reprehensible that they make their ‘you sometimes need a car’ point by setting up a preposterous biking scenario in which the protagonists are shown to be fools for trying to make do without a car; acting as if they didn’t need a car when we all can plainly see that in this situation the car would solve all their problems. See how that reifies car use as normal, as the fall back, as sensible? That’s what irks.
Most of us probably find the core principle of car sharing fine. And we’re not arguing that point here.
I actually found the zipcar ad quite humorous. I am a car-free mama of six who has visited the zipcar website several times and toyed with the idea of joining – except there are no 8 passenger zipcars in Pdx! Sometimes you just need a bicycle:) I carry 5 on my bike regularly, sometimes 6 with a friend, plus a 5 gallon water thermos, plus my stroller, plus whatever else we pick up along the way. I gave up my car after regular lectures from the AAA battery jumper guy that if I didn’t drive my suburban often I should at least take it for a little jog around the block every week to keep the battery juiced. Keeping up with 6 kids is a full-time job…. so having to “walk the needy Suburban” wasn’t too appealing. So I sold it. I have found that you really can carry all sorts of things on a bicycle.
You know I just love sh** like this, but I’ll pass on the PhotoShopping and instead share this:
Sometimes you just need a car.
Sorry, I mean http://tinyurl.com/6judgjy
Something nobody else has brought forward, but the different images are connected to different vehicles on the bottom of the page… There is a specific vehicle that is highlighted for the bike picture (and you can go look at it for yourself).
=v= Zipcar has a “caption this photo” contest on Facebook. The following is my contribution (and is based on real-life situations):
“Eduardo, the entire bottom floor of this ugly building is devoted to parking. How did we get past the local ordinances?”
“Simple, we said we’d devote a portion to eco-groovy car share parking, and the fools fell for it. Of course, this building will still mostly be a parking garage long after Zipcar is out of business.”
“Oh yeah, our usual greenwash approach. Is that why we’re arriving on these fauxie bikes, instead of hiring messengers the way we usually do?”
“You got it, Jenna.”
Down here in Los Angeles Zipcar swallowed up its predecessor FlexCar a few years ago and then promptly and literally gave zip to us dedicated FlexCar members by consolidating all cars around USC and UCLA campuses without so much as a hint of warning or an iota of consideration.
ZipCar can do no right in my book, and this ad is just further proof of that.