Science - January 19, 2006

Debate/ Ad bikes instead of ideals?

Today’s students are not afraid of the commercial world. Thousands of them applied for a free bicycle with ads on it recently. But what about the idealists in Wageningen? Is a brand-new bike seductive enough to convince them to advertise beer brands or beauty products? Or are they anti-commercial kids who want to change the world and who would therefore boycott ad bikes as a matter of principle?

Femke van der Geer, student of Business and Consumer Studies:
‘Good idea! I’d love one of those bikes. My bike is falling apart. I couldn’t care less what I was advertising while cycling around. Ads for strange products like sanitary towels are probably really hip. And if the bikes are a success, no one will care what you are riding about on. It’s a great idea. Where I can find out more?’

Kim van Groningen, first year student of Biology and member of Jongeren Milieu Actief, environmental organisation:
‘The members of my environmental organisation, JMA Wageningen, would not automatically accept a free ad bike. We promote the idea of consuming less, and being more aware and concerned about the environment and what we consume. A bike like this is promoting exactly the opposite. We don’t mind ‘good’ publicity though, like ads for recycled paper or for the health-food shop Buys & Ko.’

Wiebe Aans, works at Studium Generale:
‘Advertising is everywhere nowadays. Students deal with ads differently than they used to. They take them less seriously and are capable of putting the messages into context. But I think it’s just another example of the craziness of the information society we live in. We are bombarded every day with all kinds of messages. I can get really annoyed about it. It’s bad enough trying to extract meaningful messages out of all the information pulp we are flooded with. I’m not interested in being confronted with messages I didn’t ask for. I definitely wouldn’t use one of these bikes.’

José Tegelaar, third year student of Forest and Nature Management, lives at Droevendaal:
‘I’ve already looked on the website. I think it’s a great idea. I haven’t applied yet, as I wonder what kind of ads they put on the bikes. I don’t want to cycle around advertising something I don’t agree with, like Gillette shaving cream that has been tested on animals. Most of all I’d like a bike that advertises a good cause. So if you can choose what product you want to advertise, I think it’s a good idea. But I already have a bike, so really I don’t need one.’

Richard Esser, tenth-year student of Forest and Nature Management:
‘The idea is a bit like that of the homeless in Amsterdam who walk around with advertisement posters so they can earn a bit of money. That’s fine with me, as is offering students an ad bike. My only problem is that it adds to the flood of advertising we are inundated with every day anyway. Young people can recognise thousands of logos, but only a few plants and animals in their own surroundings. That’s a sorry state of affairs. It shows how abstract our world has become.’

Hans Sjouke Koopal, spokesman for Heineken brewers:
‘Heineken thinks it’s a nice idea, but not for Heineken itself. Alcohol and driving are not a good combination, and not on the bike either.’

Laurien Holtjer

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