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Tue, 7 Jun 2005

Advertising Standards Authority - bunch of retards

I recently made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about some ads that London Transport has been running, which claimed that their absurd "bendy buses" are more comfortable than the Routemasters they are replacing. This claim of theirs is manifestly untrue, as there are now fewer seats on the routes served. All other things being equal, someone with a decent seat - and those on Routemasters ain't half bad - will be more comfortable than someone who is standing. Also, a passenger who is standing on a Routemaster is guaranteed to have plenty of space (only five standing passengers are permitted) and not to be crushed up against some labourer's armpit - this practice is known as "crush loading", a term which in itself indicates that people don't consider the typical operating conditions to be comfortable! Consider also that the few seats that there are on a bendy bus seem to be specially designed to be uncomfortable, with all kinds of bumps on them which are impossible to avoid unless one is a midget.

The ASA ruled that comfort is a matter of opinion and so London Transport were perfectly entitled to make their claim. This argument seems to indicate that they would be entitled to claim the buses were comfortable even if the inside were coated in tramp-shit and the only other passenger Samson The Serial Syphilitic Sodomist.

Even if we are to accept that comfort is a matter of opinion, this can surely only go so far - I think that even the ASA would be a bit twitchy about a bus full of hungry lions being described as "comfortable". So just how far should we go? It would make sense to apply the "reasonable person" test. I think that for all the reasons outlined above, the vast majority of reasonable people with experience of using both types of bus would find a Routemaster to be more comfortable.

But then, comfort is not a matter of opinion. I asked my friend Mr. Google for "objective measures of comfort" which turned up a paper "Sitting comfort and discomfort and the relationships with objective measures"* (De Looze, Kuijt-Evers and van Dieën; Ergonomics vol. 46, no. 10, pp. 985-997) which tells us that many different objective measures of comfort have been tried and that the one that was most closely correlated with subjective comfort is to do with pressure distribution. Clearly, when I am sitting pressure is more evenly distributed over my body than when standing. And when sitting on a Routemaster it is more evenly distributed than on the rare occasions I can sit on a bendy bus. Therefore Routemasters are objectively more comfortable.

* I have not read all the paper, only the abstract, because in the spirit of academic openness it is, errm, locked away.

Posted at 19:00 by David Cantrell