Automobile France

Making automobile advertising greener: the impact of new French regulation on social content

In light of growing concerns about the environment, the French government has introduced regulations to ensure that any car adverts include messages that encourage greener modes of transport – like cycling.

The regulations are quite prescriptive, laying out the exact messages that need to be included in automobile advertising.

What does this mean for the global auto market? Environmental issues are only going to become more important. If the French experiment proves successful, we could see more governments following France’s lead, and looking for ways to regulate automotive advertising. 

Brands are going to have to adapt to a new way of advertising in France. This will give them a chance to adapt before more countries roll out similar rules. Perhaps it’s time to look for ways to proactively introduce green messaging in other countries, too?

What are the new messages?

In France, from June 1, any car advert must contain one of the following phrases with hashtags that encourage using less environmentally damaging forms of transport:

  • Pour les trajets courts, privilégiez la marche ou le vélo #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer (For short journeys, prioritise walking or cycling)
  • Pensez à covoiturer #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer  (Think about lift sharing)
  • Au quotidien, prenez les transports en commun #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer (On a day-to-day basis, take public transport)

These changes came into force from the beginning of March, and they apply to automobile advertising for car sales and long-term rentals or car leasing (for a period of two years and over). The rules apply to ads for new or second-hand vehicles L, M1 & N1 categories, but not for LCV pickups with at least five seats. 

The regulation, which covers both online and offline forms of advertising, has the backing of car brands. Hyundai France, for example, had gone on record saying it is happy to have had “a direct message from the government”.

CO2 emission ratings

Ads need to be clear about the CO2 emission rating of the car that features in the automobile advertising. The emission rating will look like this:

Again, this applies to any online or offline ad for car sales and long-term rentals. It also includes commercial vehicles (both new and second-hand) that are categorised as ‘M1’ vehicles (those with a gross vehicle weight rating less than or equal to 3.5 tonnes).

How will this impact your social media campaigns and content?

The regulations aren’t overly restrictive on social media content, but there are a few things you should consider to make sure your campaign is in line: 

  1. Create engaging content with a restricted character limit. Any of the three required messages will take up much-needed space in car campaigns, particularly when composing tweets, for example. One way around this could be to include the text in any image that goes with the post – remember, though, that the message must be legible.
  2. Include the CO2 score label into your creative. All social media content needs to include the CO2 score, which means you need to find space within your creative (for example, it could be displayed on the car image). Brands will need to consider how to include all the required information while keeping the copy and images creative and inspiring.
  3. Rethink how to create assets for social (and other) media. Let’s say you create an asset showcasing eight different car models. This will now need to include their eight different CO2 score labels, which could make for a crowded image. One way to tackle this is to create more content that showcases one car instead of multiple cars, giving you the space to include everything you need under the new rules.
  4. Think about how to deal with user-generated content. You might want to showcase or share a follower’s image, but this would mean adding a CO2 score label and any required messaging that’s missing under the new regulation.

As the regulation is so new, we’re likely to see brands raising questions with the ARPP as they become more familiar with the new rules. As it stands, though, any car brand that does business in France needs to consider how they’ll adapt their social content to meet the new standards. 

It’s a good idea for global automotive brands to start looking for ways to incorporate green messaging into their campaigns before they’re required to. CO2 emission scoring, for example, could be a great place to start (and people are familiar with the format as electronic goods like fridge freezers and TVs use a similar system).

The most innovative brands will take the lead in this area, getting ahead of potential legislation change, rather than waiting to be told what to do. 


Thank you to our social media manager Romain Pautet for his research and contribution to this article.
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