GM Pulls Offensive Ad Mocking College-Aged Cyclists


Written by Brian Stewart, Campus Progress

General Motors has pulled an ad targeted at college students that implied riding a bike was uncool and awkward.

The ad, which ran in college publications, shows a woman riding in the passenger seat of a car and seemingly laughing at a college-aged male biker, who is portrayed as embarrassed and tries to hide his face.

“Reality sucks,” the ad reads. “Luckily the GM college discount doesn’t. … Stop pedaling…start driving.”

The backlash against the ad was widespread, with the League of American Bicyclists providing some awesome sarcastic commentary on what they called “one of the more remarkably ill-conceived car ad campaigns of all time.” They write:

If you are a student looking to add tens of thousands of dollars of long term debt, care little about the environment, and want to lump two tons of steel around campus while paying through the nose for insurance, gas, and parking… General Motors has got a perfect deal for you. Bonus: it’ll make you fat and unhealthy! All you have to do is give up that dorky bicycle that’s easy to use, practically free, gets you some exercise and is actually fun to ride.

An GM spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that the ad—which was turned into a poster and plastered around campuses—was intended to be “a bit cheeky and humorous and not meant to offend anybody.” The company also apologized extensively on Twitter, directly responding to many who had complained about the mockery of bikers.

Recent data show that young Americans are already driving less than they were in 2001.

This post was originally published by Campus Progress.


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Photo from: BikePortland

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Christina B.
Christina B.4 years ago

Students driving to school is practically unheard of in my country, Greece. People aren't allowed to get their driver's licence before they turn 18. College students who own a car are also not a very common sight, since NO student will take a loan to buy a car (but their parents might....).

That was one STUPID ad. It brings to mind scenes from American shows, where the rich kids are being mean to the poor, struggling kid, who has to work to pay his tuition. Did the ad company really get paid for its idea?

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Carol P.
Carol P.4 years ago

I'm glad they smartened up and pulled this ad. Living in a big city, I see way too many incidents of drivers treating bicyclists as second-class citizens when they have just as much right to be on our roads as anyone else.

It is too bad that the people at GM who approved this ad campaign, and the agency who created it, are so caught up in their own stereotypes that they didn't realize their stupidity in the first place. Kudos for everyone who complained and got the ads pulled.

Nick Scales
Nicholas Scales4 years ago

GM are just greed merchants who don't even produce decent cars- Cheverolet's, Vauxhall's, Opel's Buick's and Cadillac's are styleless gutless boxes. I think it's actually cooler to ride the bike!

Dave C.
Dave C.4 years ago

GM should be the 1980s when I was at college it was the rare person who owned a car and drove on it seems we are told cars are a necessity....another blurring of the truth by big greedy oil and their minions.....

biking is better, for yourself and the world....

rene davis
rene davis4 years ago

great come back.

Lynette B.
Lynette B.4 years ago

Yup, more nail in their coffin.

I actually wish, now, that this ill-conceived ad campaign, and the resultant back lash, had been discussed more in the mainstream media. It really does show GM to be short sighted.

Austin R.
Austin Rotter4 years ago

If anyone should be embarrassed its GM and its ever dwindling market share because they are unresponsive to consumer needs.

Monica D.
Monica D.4 years ago

Cycling is cool, for people and the environment.

Seana F.
Past Member 4 years ago

Well done to the association and tweeters in getting GM to pull the ad. If only governments were as quick to respond to demands for better and safer cycle lane networks!! Buy your bike from car manufacturers who produce bicycles too, if you can afford a high-spec one, that may encourage them too.