The po-faced virtue signalling from Evans Cycles is simply bad business

Elliott Haworth
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Tour de Yorkshire 2016 - Stage One
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What “values” can a company which sells bicycles have, other than selling bicycles?

Evans Cycles last week demonstrated its ongoing commitment to these as yet unstated values, by terminating all advertising across the Daily Mail, the Sun, and the Daily Express titles.

These nefarious news outlets are “very obviously at odds with our values,” said the press release. Whoever runs the Evans Twitter account quickly echoed these newfound values with a grovelling tweet to virtue-signallers-in-chief, “Stop Funding Hate”, to confirm that all trace of the right wing press had been expunged.

There was much of this value-having last year. Under pressure from holier-than-thou campaigners, ads were pulled from some of the most widely-read publications in the UK. Lego ended its offers with the Mail. John Lewis, with perhaps more business savvy than a Danish toy maker, told the campaigners where to go.

Millions of people read these publications. The combined print readership is in excess of 3.5m working age UK adults. Online, globally, it's some 64.5m. That’s a lot of people who might need a new bike.

Are Evans Cycles suggesting that this segment of society are unworthy of their products?

It goes without saying that “activists” such as Stop Funding Hate – those who trawl the websites they loathe so, screen-shotting ads on articles about immigration and bombarding the poor firms in question – aren’t likely Evans clients.

Advertising is a largely probabilistic pass time. When considering the reach of a company that sells bikes, its marketing manager should clearly prioritise the combined millions who read the Sun et al, over a few pious Twitter trolls.

Misplaced ads have dominated advertising discourse this year. It turns out that no one wants to appear next to – or fund – terrorists on YouTube. Fair enough. The fallout, though, shows that the average consumer doesn’t affiliate a brand’s ad with the page upon which it appears. And besides, unbelievably, those who read these publications tend to do so intentionally.

Also unbelievably, it’s okay for people to hold viewpoints different from your own. What Evans Cycles has achieved is an advertising filter bubble, in which only those who meet its moral cut are worthy of its offers. That’s not just stupid, it’s flagrant intolerance.

“Advertising is not entertainment or an art form, it’s a medium of information,” once said David Ogilvy. Whatever else advertising is trying to do, whether with words or pictures, purpose or values, its point is always to impart information.

It’s vogue for firms to espouse liberal values to the point that it’s dull. A PR stunt that occupies Twitter users for a couple of hours pales in comparison to the reach of sustained advertising campaigns in widely read publications. If Evans were really serious about its values, it would stop all advertising across the parent companies of these papers – which is, let’s face it, a majority of the UK media.

Aligning a firm with one political mode over another does little but alienate potential customers.

A bicycle company needs no more values than selling bicycles – and hopefully lots of them.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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