Car Ads

Nissan Leaf

The auto industry has consistently been faced with the struggle of making more fuel-efficient vehicles in a cutthroat industry. Rising fuel prices as well as fuel scarcity have lead to an increased demand for fuel-efficient vehicles in the American markets. Through this struggle for fuel efficiency, the Japanese company Nissan, has created a new product that they call the “Nissan Leaf.”

In order to increase marketing for the Nissan Leaf, the company did a commercial that involved a polar bear traveling from where the polar ice caps were melting and making his way to a city. On his way to the city the bear seems visibly upset at all the fuel burning vehicles and modes of transport he sees. Finally, he arrives in a suburban area where a man is about to enter his Nissan Leaf. The man turns and the bear approaches the man only to give him a massive bear hug. This advertisement highlights the green approach that is being taken by many car companies. These companies are trying to eliminate the image of the old Detroit dinosaurs and replace them with futuristic and sleek cars that perform well and are aesthetically pleasing. In this particular advertisement, Nissan appears to want to make the connection to global climate change and is indirectly saying that their cars are going to help prevent the polar bears from losing their habitats. This is a very big yet subtle claim made by Nissan. The fact that the bear hugs the man for protecting his environment says a whole lot in regards to what the company hopes to convince people of.

The Nissan Leaf seems like a dream come true for many car owners who are hoping to cut their cost, get great gas mileage and do something good for the environment. However, there are many things to consider in buying one of these green machines. First of all, they only get around 100 miles in a charge. That means that by the time a hundred miles rolls around you need between 8-10 hours for a full charge from an empty battery. Therefore, these cars are great in the cities and for people who have less than a hundred miles to go a day, but can be very impractical for any sort of distance driving. In case you need to travel further in a day, this severely limits your options and would force you to need a different vehicle. Another issue with the Leaf is finding spots in which to plug them in. Not everyone, especially those in a city have a spot that they can casually plug in their car for a recharge.

Does buying a Nissan Leaf really stop global climate change and the melting of the polar ice caps? There is no way that Nissan can truly make the claim that it is stopping global climate change. Nearly 70 percent of the electricity in the United States is derived from coal or natural gas, which are also contributors to climate change. Therefore, there are still environmental impacts from the electricity usage from the car, even as these impacts are greatly reduced comparatively to a normal gas-burning car.  However, there is some accuracy to the fact that these vehicles will reduce carbon emissions. But there are other factors one must consider when determining the environmental impact of a product. The fact that the car parts, as well as rubber on the wheels, were mined/drilled/excavated as a raw material at one point shows that there is no way (short of only walking from point a to point b) to purchase any car and completely to be perfect in protecting the environment. Furthermore, how did these cars get transported to and from the sales lots? By trucks and other large vehicles that are of course, fuel burning.

The argument itself for buying a Nissan Leaf could be made with the numbers that back up its cost effectiveness as well as a switch from oil dependency. However, their argument in this commercial looks to appeal to anyone who is environmentally conscious, including those who simply like animals, especially polar bears. So, if you buy a Nissan Leaf, you are definitely not directly saving a polar bear’s life, nor would I recommend trying to hug a polar bear. This commercial may be lacking in the logic department; however, its argument is certainly convincing and has a broad appeal to those who wish to get great gas mileage with the appearance of making a global impact in terms of global climate change. Yes, buying one of these cars will help to curb pollution and cut your dependence on foreign oil, but they will not completely absolve you from responsibility for the polar bear.

Critique by Jared Arnold

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

The automobile industry is under constant critique for its environmental impact. Rightfully so, as the transportation industry is a main contributor to climate change. Gas consuming vehicles burn fuels, which release CO2 into the atmosphere, creating a house effect, warming the Earth’s temperature.

In order to keep up with current trends.  appear environmentally conscious and culturally aware, Ford Motor Company utilizes an advertising technique referred to as greenwashing. Greenwashing misleads consumers regarding environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product of service. The 2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid commercial intended to open up their target audience, appealing to both extremely environmentally conscious consumers and those with a strong Western Worldview of nature. This belief emphasizes the idea that nature is intended for the benefit of humanity. This view puts humans as the center of the world and superior to all other living and nonliving things. For Ford to present these messages, Matthew McConaughey, a popular actor and celebrity, drives the chic new vehicle saying, “it’s not about hugging trees…its not about being wasteful either” in reference to driving and purchasing the new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

The advertisers balance luxury with being environmentally sustainable and aware.  Since “hugging trees” is often a phrase reserved to refer to unfashionable, “earthy” types, McConaughey saying, “it’s not about hugging trees,” implies you don’t have to give up your entire lifestyle. Hybrid cars are not reserved for radical environmentalists, but instead the middle of the road consumer can cut down on waste buy purchasing the Lincoln MKZ 2015 Hybrid. They are not implying that anyone give up lavishness or comfort for the sake of saving the environment, but only that people find balance, and use moderation, as if simply not being wasteful will help save the environment. They are capitalizing on the trendiness of environmental sustainability, while still encouraging consumerism.  Furthermore, the commercial is anthropomorphic in nature, McConaughey states, “taking care of yourself, takes care of more than just yourself.” As if taking care of yourself, of individuals and of humanity is the most important factor, and helping the environment is a positive side effect.

In reality, purchasing a brand new, 2015 car is unnecessary and requires energy and resources. However, this advertisement plays into the public’s desire to be more environmentally friendly, whether as a status symbol or honest attempts to cut down on carbon emissions. It uses nature as a backdrop, an advertising strategy Julia Corbett explains in her book Communicating Nature. In this type of ad you are being persuaded to buy something with no direct connection to the natural world, but nonhuman icons play a role in the overall message. Images are often more convincing and powerful than words, so by placing the car on a scenic highway, surrounded by nature, it makes the consumer feel as if they’re being more environmentally friendly and associate peace and serenity with the product.

Furthermore, this Lincoln MKZ Hybrid commercial commits sins of greenwashing. According to the 2010 Greenwashing Report, more than 95% of consumer products commit one or more greenwashing sins. This advertisement commits the sins of no proof, vagueness, and irrelevance. The 45-second commercial gives no concrete evidence as to how the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid gives the consumer ‘balance,’ nor describes how hybrid vehicles are better for the environment than its gas powered counterparts. The commercial commits the advertising sin of vagueness by being extremely unclear and unrecognizable, both in what is being sold and why the consumer should want this product. Lastly, the entire rhetoric of the commercial and use of Matthew McConaughey to promote the product, is completely irrelevant and useless to making a purchasing decision. It gives the consumer no additional information about the product or environmental benefits or hazards of driving a hybrid vehicle.

The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid commercial is promoting a vehicle that actually releases less CO2 into the atmosphere than its gas powered equivalent. Essentially, hybrid vehicles use an electric motor to increase power and fuel economy while minimizing emissions. This motor is charged by a battery within the car, as well as the ability to recharge at recharging stations, and receives 39 miles per gallon.   However, the commercial doesn’t attempt to educate its audience on the merits of a hybrid motor vehicle, instead appealing to the idea of chic simplicity.

While Hybrid vehicles may be more fuel-efficient than gas powered ones, the   Lincoln MKZ is assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico, a facility in the Sonoran Desert. All parts are produced and imported from Japan to Hermosillo where they’re assembled before being shipped to the United States for sale. Thus, transporting the vehicles to be sold elsewhere in the US uses additional resources and has a negative environmental impact. Furthermore, the actual manufacturing of hybrid engines releases more CO2 into the atmosphere than gas powered engines. This Lincoln MKZ Hybrid commercial is framed as a “green” advertisement, appealing to the publics desire to be trendy, more environmentally sustainable while still indulging in luxury. However, the commercial commits various sins of greenwashing and omits the fact that consumption of any sort has a negative impact on the environment.

Critique by Tori Copelas

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius, known to many as the best selling vehicle in its class of hybrid mid-sized sedans, is considered to be one of the better eco-friendly vehicles on the road.  According to the essay by Julia Corbett, “It’s not easy being green: The greenwashing of environmental discourses in advertising,” in 2010 nearly 141,000 cars were sold in the United States making up about 51 percent of hybrid electronic vehicle sales.  However, what many people do not know is that behind the colorful commercial there are people at Toyota who are committing greenwashing.

The imagery and language used in the commercial drive home the idea that with the purchase of the Prius, there can be harmony between man, nature and machine.  This concept allows the consumer to take responsibility of helping the environment and “going green,” leaving Toyota to continue with its production practices.  Toyota commits greenwashing, because instead of using green production methods it presents a green image and puts the responsibility of being eco-friendly on the consumer.

Corbett explains that ads like this promote that we can be harmonious with nature through the purchase of green products, such as the Prius, without having to change our daily habit of excessive driving.  Toyota uses greenwashing to help boost its claims of being an environmentally friendly corporation that creates products that are “earth-friendly” and “green,” however does nothing to back-up these claims.  If you were to pull back the green curtain cloaking the Prius’ production you would discover that, according Corbett, the construction of the electric battery that runs the car creates more environmental damage than a Land Rover Discovery.  Other environmental damage that is caused by the construction of the Prius is “that the energy required to build and drive a Prius exceeds that of a Hummer by 50 percent.  Also […] the environmental damage caused by the plant that mines and smelts the nickel for the battery […] has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the ‘dead zone’ around the plant to test moon rovers.”  Toyota’s attempt to cover up its destructive production methods with greenwashing has lead them to commit several sins of greenwashing.

There are two sins that are committed by this commercial, the first being the sin of the hidden trade off.  The commercial presents the Pruis as a gas efficient and smog-reducing vehicle; however, it fails to mention the pollution and environmental injury that is caused by the creation of the car’s electric battery.  By not informing the public about the hidden tradeoff, the consumer thinks they are buying a green product, because they have not been entirely educated about its environmental consequences.  The second sin that is committed is the sin of vagueness.  In the commercial it states that the Prius reduces smog emissions, however never elaborates how many emissions are reduced or what the statement really means.  It does not clarify which type of emissions are reduced or even how effective the Prius is at reducing smog.  Toyota could stop committing these sins by changing to greener methods in the production of the Prius.  However, Toyota relies on greenwashing to hide these sins and promote a green product.

Critique by Gabriella Marchetti

Prius Man and Nature

What if I told you that you could stop our world’s climate change issues if you bought an electric car?  Toyota Prius advertises their Hybrid Synergy Drive vehicle in a way that emphasizes how it benefits the environment, how it is fashionable, and how consumers can solve the climate change problem by buying this car.  In effect, Toyota Prius advertisements tell consumers that it is up to them to make the right choice and buy the Prius so they can save the environment.  However, buying an electric car doesn’t help solve the world’s problems, nor does it make us better citizens.

While identifying the “environment,” the advertisement reinforces the dominance of man as man-made construction has clearly disrupted natural habitats in the images of the commercial.  This advertisement uses a series of bold statements about the benefits of driving a Prius and supplements them by showing picturesque images of nature next to man-made constructions.  The images consist of a city with trees, a forest with highways running through it, and mountainous regions with roads. The images show nature as a foreground for human expansion, domination, and exploitation, as well as portrays nature as defenseless and complacent.  The phrases shown consist of manipulative and irrelevant facts that allude to carbon emissions, conscious consumer decisions, solving the world’s problems, boasting about the “fashionability” of a Prius, and even go so far as to claim that one day it will clean the air instead of just not polluting it.

With its contriving phrases, the advertisement places all responsibility on the consumer by telling them that they can help solve “the worlds biggest problem”.  In doing so, all responsibility is absolved from the producer.  Instead of telling consumers to drive less, it encourages them to drive the same amount, but in an electric car with less guilt.  Also, by focusing on the consumer, the advertisement fails to recognize the environmental impacts of producing the actual cars.  For example, when it references lower amounts of emissions, it doesn’t account for the emissions during the production process or the shipment of cars.

Not only is the consumer pressured into buying the Prius to live more “environmentally friendly,” but he or she is also pressured to buy it because it is fashionable.  There is an increasing pressure to join this new “environmental fad” by purchasing green goods such as a Prius.  The advertisement states that the Prius was created when the environment wasn’t fashionable, but now that it is people should by the Toyota electric car because it is the best of all the options.  It also states that there are almost one million people who drive a Prius as a way to prove its popularity.  However, even if this was the solution to help mitigate climate change (which it most certainly is not) then it is a very exclusive solution.  Not everyone can buy a Prius, so does that mean people with less money can’t help mitigate climate change?  This advertisement is clearly trying to appeal to middle to upper class clientele who may have some concern about the environment, or may just want some tangible proof that they are “helping our world”.

Ultimately, if Toyota were truly aiming to lower emissions and advertise more environmentally conscious solutions, then perhaps they would’ve advocated for buying a Prius as well as reducing the amount people drive.  As we know, efficiency of products doesn’t always result in lower emissions or less energy usage; rather it can often create a paradox in which products are used more.  With its manipulative phrases and implicit images, this advertisement successfully tapped in to the increasing popularity of “green” consumption.  Although Toyota advocates for a product less harmful to the environment, the advertisement fails to address any behavioral changes that consumers should make as well as key information relative the actual impacts of buying a Prius.  If one were informed about the impacts of the production and usage of a Prius, then perhaps he or she would realize that buying an electric car isn’t going to save our world.

Critique by Lizzy Gendell

Ford Hybrid

Car advertisements make people feel good about polluting our environment.  With the new hype around fuel-efficient cars and alternative fuels, there aren’t many other things that are as harmful to our environment as cars.  But car companies know that if they are going to have any chance of selling cars to consumers they need to create a greener image. It is through this that companies, such as Ford, use a marketing technique called “greenwashing.”  Greenwashing is used to make your product seem more environmentally friendly then it really is.

If you take the super bowl commercial of the Ford Hybrid for example it uses nature as a backdrop in order to draw the audience in to thinking that if it is going to buy a car, it might as well buy a car that is a friend to the environment.  The ad consists of Kermit the Frog in different nature settings saying “it isn’t easy being green.” Its not till the end when he comes across the Ford Escape Hybrid in the middle of a forest that he changes his mind and states “I guess it is easy being green.”   This strategy of using nature and the color green, such as Kermit himself, gets the audience thinking that it is easy being green, and that getting this product will make them feel green.

The claim that Ford is making in this advertisement is not factual, because when it comes to cars even hybrids they are not green; they are just greener then a non-hybrid.  Even with hybrid cars, 60% of United States transportation emissions comes from cars and light trucks and on top of that every one gallon of gas = twenty four pounds of global warming emissions (Union of Concerned Scientists).  Although Ford is showing a car that has an “EPA estimated 36 miles per gallon” which is more environmentally friendly then other cars on the road today, in reality the environmental impact of the creation and transportation of this car is just as environmentally damaging then that of other modern cars. This is information that the target audience, particularly the people that are in the market for a car, should know.   By stating, “it is easy to be green” the audience is tricked into believing that they are helping the environment by getting this car, which is a sin of the hidden trade-off.

Out of the seven sins of greenwashing this advertisement meets four out of the seven sins. On top of the sin of the hidden trade off this ad also touches on the sin of lesser of two evils, which is when “a claim that may be true within the product category, but that risks distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole.” Then there is the sin of vagueness, which has claims that are “so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer,” and lastly there is the sin of no proof which is an “environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification”( The Sins of Greenwashing). Each of the sins can be related back to Kermit’s claim that it “is easy being green” because Ford needs to create an ad that will draw the audience in and make them want their product and by being broad, not showing proof, and being vague and using nature as a backdrop Ford has danced around the real information one should know about the product that is trying to be sold, especially when it claims to be “green”.

Works Cited

“2014 Ford Escape SUV | Sips Fuel & Gushes Technology |” 2014 Ford Escape SUV | Sips Fuel & Gushes Technology | N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <>.

“Car Emissions and Global Warming | UCSUSA.” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <>.

“Fast Facts.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <>.

“The Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition.” The Seven Sins. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <>.

Critique by Andrew Pollis

Prius Family

Cars are essential to human lives. They allow for humans to have a quick way of transportation, and they make our lives more efficient. While cars are great, there are still problems with them. They produce massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and leave a huge environmental footprint. Car companies are now trying to show audiences with their commercials that their cars do not hurt the environment but actually improve the problem. Using the environment to promote a product can be ethically challenging, but in 2014, Toyota showed an animated commercial during the Super Bowl that was ethical. This commercial is an excellent example of how the environment can be used to promote a product.

The commercial starts off with the Prius driving through the forest, passing a deer and bicyclist with an upbeat song that Toyota created. Once the Prius drives out of the forest, it passes a lake where fish jump in and out of the water. Then the Prius drives by a gas station where a man changes the gas prices sign and another man gets ready to get into his car to greet his dog. Once the car drives by, both men show a smile while the dog barks at the Prius. After the car passes the gas station, the Prius then passes a green field where a farmer is on a red tractor. As the Prius drives past the fields of the farm, the crops start to grow. In the next scene of the commercial you see the Prius drive through a suburban neighborhood where there is another model of the Prius. The difference between the two Priuses is that the one in the suburban neighborhood is called “Prius v.” Toyota promotes their larger version of the Prius, the Prius v, so families can have the option of buying an environmentally friendly family car. Then the original Prius passes two more models of the Prius. It passes the “Prius c,” a smaller version to accommodate people living in the city, and the “Prius Plug- in Hybrid,” which allows for the car to be charged electrically. In the last scene of the commercial, all four of the models drive in a line through the countryside. The cars pass a snow capped mountain with birds flying over the cars. At the end of the commercial, the Priuses pass a farm’s barn with the roof of the barn saying “Meet the Prius Family.”

In this commercial, Toyota uses what Julia Corbett would call green product attribute appeals to promote their new line of Priuses. Toyota is trying to show the viewers that by driving a Toyota Prius, you will help the environment. You will not need to go to the gas stations as often, and by doing so customers will help save consumption of fuel. Referring back to the commercial, an important rhetorical tactic during the commercial was when the Prius past the farm, and crops started to grow behind the Prius. The car passing the field with the crops growing and kids jumping into the lake gave a message that with less emission being put into the atmosphere make agriculture and humans happier.

One of the strongest rhetorical points during the commercial was the song being played. Especially the second verse, where the woman sings, “The perfect match electric and gas; Mile after mile, made to last; We have three more, for all to use; So for the neighbors, friends, and for everyone, the news.” This verse was the most powerful verse, because Toyota tells the audience that the Prius is a mix between gas and electric, and the car can go further distance with a full tank of gas than their competitors. On Toyota’s website, they state that the Prius in all models get at least 50 miles per gallon. Then in the third verse the woman sings about their different models of the Prius. This is important as well because it tells the audience that there is more than one model of the Prius that can accommodate a certain customer. The Prius could be the best match for people who have families; people who live in a city; people who want an electric car; or the new standard model. While these features sound great, you have to look at the small detail when it comes to Toyota.

Toyota cars are cheap and affordable cars, but the problem with this commercial is that they don’t show the Prius price. When looking on Toyota’s website, there are significantly different prices for each model of the Prius. The ‘Prius c’ is the cheapest at $19,540 with 53 mpg, and the most expensive one is the ‘Prius Plug- in Hybrid’ at $29, 990 with 90 mpg. Even though both of these cars get great gas mileage, it seems as if Toyota is trying to say to the customer that if they want to be environmentally friendly and save gas expenses they have to pay an extra ten thousand dollars. The prices make a difference, because people will be more willing to pay less and still get great gas mileage.  If Toyota really wants to help the environment, they would make their ‘Plug-in Hybrid’ car less expensive. They could be that pioneering company that makes expensive green products affordable for everybody at all social levels. The Prius is certainly an innovative car in the motor industry, but more motor manufacturers are making their cars have higher mpg standards. I know my Subaru Impreza gets 37 mpg according to Subaru website, but my car reports on the dashboard says that it averages around 44 mpg. That is not a big difference compared to the Prius C which gets 53 mpg. Also my car looks better than all the Prius models and is more affordable. Many factors are assessed when buying a car but it is all preference for the decision.

While the Prius seems like this great car that uses less gas and is environmentally friendly Toyota is not telling the dirty secret they have about producing a Prius. The Prius is a hybrid car that has an electric and gas motor, but manufacturing an electric motor “requires much more energy than producing a standard car battery” according to Dave Roos article called “Does hybrid car production waste offset benefit?” written in 2010. Roos also says that producing the electric motor result in higher emission of gas level. Gases like sulfur dioxide . Is Toyota Prius really green or does it play a false view of environment? The commercial says nothing of the production of the Prius, but the ethics of the message is questionable.

This Toyota Prius commercial is trying to shows that their product is environmentally friendly and economically beneficial. The audience can see that they will make a positive environmental impact and save gas if they buy the Prius. Toyota gives the customer four models of the Prius to choose from, and the customer picks the model that suits their life style the best. Toyota’s approach was ethical and positive.

Critique by Michael Edson

Mazda’s Lorax Ad

Vague Language, Irrelevant Certifications, and Imagery

From written word to visual representation, social media has a profound role on our everyday actions. Advertisements shape the way we consume our surrounding worlds resources. All businesses use social media to advertise their product. It is their marketing that persuades us against or for the product. This essay will diagnose the problems with Mazda’s commercial that advertises environmental perks of their new CX-5 SUV in Dr. Seuss like setting. The commercial uses language, certifications, and imagery aimed at representing the environment positively, but uses claims irrelevant to the preservation of our globe.

As the commercial starts playing a commentator talks with a deep jolly voice, he asks, “Who makes a vehicle with great fuel efficiency that doesn’t compromise the joy of driving?” The language used not only suggests a claim that is not that impressive but one insinuating that fuel efficiency often cannot be achieved while joyfully driving. What is not so impressive about the claim is that the actual fuel efficiency in their terms only accounts for 35 miles per gallon, which is not a radical change from an average car with 25-30 mpg. This claim is achieved with Mazda’s SkyActive Technology. They essentially created a word pointing to the health of our environment. Besides stating SkyActive Technology’s presence the ad does not explain what the technology actually does. It is just a buzzword used to associate the sky with reduced emissions because of their “fuel efficiency.”

As the commercial goes on the car meanders through Truffula trees, a watermark symbol appears on the screen announcing the cars approval. The approval used in favor of the environment is the “Truffula Tree Seal of Approval.” Which has nothing to do with anything but a made up concept. The vehicle has received the “only” seal because it is the only vehicle under this set of approvals. The use of irrelevant certifications is meant to boast their product to a viewer with little knowledge of what is actually good for the environment.

The ad also plays provocative imagery using a setting based off Dr. Seuss’s story the Lorax. The ad begins with a zoomed out look at a Lorax landscape filled with color and illustrated creatures. The focus narrows in on an illustrated Mazda zooming through the landscape. The area flourishes with life, representing strong ties between the Mazda and healthy creatures.  The pictures used in the commercial are suggestive pictures, falling under Futtera’s 10 rules of green washing. Their definition of suggestive pictures is “green images that indicate a (un-justified) green impact.” As the commercial continues two of the characters hold up signs, one of the signs says, “Truffula tree friendly.” The viewer then tries to make the connection between this illustrated car and Truffula trees that don’t look the slightest like real trees. The unimaginable imagery is the largest downfall to this commercial. The car doesn’t even look real. The only natural ties between Mazda’s CX-5 and the environment are the ideals based on the Lorax. But the Lorax in the end doesn’t seem entirely engaged with the commercial either. He seems annoyed that the commentator keeps repeating himself.

Mazda uses an unrealistic media approach in hopes of advertising their CX-5 vehicle as being environmentally friendly. By using language, irrelevant certifications and imagery they create an ad littered with green washing characteristics. The language they use is fluffy and not thoroughly explained. What is Skyactive Technology? It just comes up in the ad with no relationship to its environmental effects. On top of language is the irrelevant certification they give their car calling it a “Truffula Tree Seal of Approval.” The certification may be good for Truffula trees, but in a realistic world they don’t exist. Finally the imagery is misleading. Everything is meant to look healthy and like the car benefits natural places. This ad is a proper example of how the consumerist industry can be misleading. The objective is to sell their good and whatever works to sell it can be implemented into their marketing schemes.

Work Cited:

Futerra Communications of Sustainability

Critique by Myles Trainer

Mazda SUV

It is amazing to see how many advertisements contain green washing in media today, and most times we are often completely unaware of it occurring, because we are so accustomed to seeing it daily. One advertisement in particular that I found to stick out among many other green washing ads, was an advertisement that used the Lorax from Dr. Seuss to advertise a Mazda SUV. This was an ad that created a great deal of backlash and uproar from a variety of audiences. This advertisement was surprising on many different levels, and is definitely a major example of green washing in advertisement.

Although the ad gives little information about the car itself, it is still able to imply a lot about the car. At the time this advertisement aired, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax was opening in theaters, so Mazda used this as an opportunity, and a marketing strategy for their new model “Mazda CX-5 with SKYACTIV technology.” As most of us know The Lorax is the story of a friendly woodland creature who confronts the greedy “once-ler,” who clear-cuts the Truffla Trees which cleaned pollution in the area, the story teaches important lessons to children as to how greedy activities, such as cutting trees for no reason, can be harmful to nature and the environment. Although the ad doesn’t reveal too much information about the car in terms of how it affects the environment, the way the ad is designed tries to get the audience to see Mazda as having a positive, green image.

The ad starts out with saying, “who delivers outstanding fuel effiency without compromising the joy of driving? Mazda. With Skyactiv Technology.” This is their way of saying that this car is environmentally friendly by saying it is “fuel efficient.” It states that the car delivers outstanding fuel efficiency, but does not use any factual information to back up that claim, which is a good example of one of the seven sins of greenwashing, the sin of vagueness. After doing research I found that the car gets close to 30 MPG, but this was not mentioned throughout the ad. The ad also mentions that the car has Skyactiv technology three different times within the short ad, and it does not define what that is, or how it is beneficial to the environment.

Next it makes a reference to the book/movie by saying, “who received the only certified Truffla trees seal of approval? Mazda.” Mazda is now using the story to try and convince the audience that since it is the only car that had the certified Truflla tree seal of approval, that it is in no way possible a harm to the environment. In the story the Lorax is known for saying “I am the Lorax I speak for the trees” Mazda uses this story as an example as to how their car does not negatively impact the environment. While this may be true, cars are still one of the most harmful human activities that impact the environment. When doing research on the Mazda website it says the car has “eco-friendly features that protect the beauty of our natural world.” It also says Mazda is “shaping a future in which cars, people and the environment can exist in harmony.” These two quotes are perfect examples of two of the seven sins of green washing, sin of no proof and sin of vagueness. Though the claims found on the Mazda’s website may be accurate, they are very vague, and do not have the proper evidence to defend them.

Aside from their TV advertisement Mazda used another very interesting sales technique targeting elementary school children. Mazda took part in the National Education Association’s ‘Read across America,’ which was a fundraiser for public school libraries. For each school Mazda visited they donated a 1,000-dollar check to their library. The company also told the children that for every child that is able to convince their parents to test-drive a Mazda, the company would donate 25 dollars to NEA’s foundation. Although the target audience is adults, or people old enough to buy cars, Mazda definitely targeted children as well. I do not necessarily agree with this approach because it is easy to get children to believe everything they say is true about their environmentally friendly car by persuading them with the beloved Dr. Seuss; regardless I do think it was a smart strategy to get their name out especially if it is to benefit children’s education.

What I found to be rather surprising was how there was very little information given about the car in this advertisement. The ad did not speak about any of the following: the cost, what the car is made of, what Skyactiv technology is, why Skyactiv technology is beneficial in helping the environment, or how fuel efficient the car is. In fact, even the car was cartoonlike to match the colorful Dr. Seuss background that it drove through. Although their may be reason as to why they omit this information, one would think that Mazda would have at least revealed the positive aspects of the car which would give the audience more evidence that this truly is an environmentally friendly car, and perhaps persuade people to test-drive the car. Overall, it was interesting to see how Mazda used Dr. Seuss as a way to advertise their car. Although it caused a great deal of controversy because of how it contradicts with Dr. Seuss’ message, it was still a creative approach in targeting different audiences in hopes to give their company a positive image.

Critique by Abby Crowley

Audi’s Green Car of the Year

With an increase in awareness surrounding the environmental movement over the last several years, we have seen green advertising take off. Many companies and organizations, regardless of whether or not their sole focus is on improving the environment, use green advertising as a tool to attract customers. The car manufacturing company, Audi, made a commercial that is an excellent example of how the environment can be used to their advantage.

In Audi’s commercial promoting their 2010 Green Car of the Year, the Audi A3 TDI, the company uses real, ongoing, environmental problems to help promote their product. The Green Police go around arresting people who have committed various acts that are harmful to the planet. The police are shown in excessive numbers and seem to be obsessed with catching people who are not undertaking the right environmental practices.

A man at a grocery store gets arrested for using plastic bags instead of paper bags when checking out. The green police find batteries that someone threw away in a garbage can and proceed to surround the house. Another man gets arrested for not composting his orange peels as he is caught in the act of throwing them in the trash. A man admits to using an incandescent light bulb and is arrested on his front porch. Lastly, a couple is bathing in their hot tub when the police surround them and discover the temperature of the hot tub to be 105 degrees. All of these arrests are a build up to the final scene in the commercial where the police undergo a roadblock to inspect cars.

There are a number of components that Audi uses to make the commercial very strong. Audi plays with building up and anticipation of what the outcome of the commercial will be. It is not until after the 40-second mark in the commercial that we finally see the Audi product come in to the picture. Since the Audi car uses clean diesel fuel, the green police allow the car to proceed through the checkpoint. The driver of the Audi then speeds off in to the distance. Throughout two- thirds of the commercial, the green police are catching people undergoing poor practices in the environment. It is not until the Audi car comes in to the scene that any positive practices are displayed. Audi uses its product to persuade the audience that driving their car is better for the environment. Most people know that driving cars is harmful to the environment but Audi’s commercial made me forget that it was bad.

Audi uses green product attributes to advertise their product. In their commercial, Audi is trying to instill in the viewers mind that by driving their A3 TDI car, you will be helping the environment, because the car runs on clean diesel. According to the auther of Communicating Nature, Julia B. Corbett, “Consumers are persuaded to think that there is a less harmful relationship between the product and the environment than one without green qualities.” (Corbett, 151). However, just because you drive the Audi A3 TDI does not mean you are going to use paper bags, recycle, and undergo sustainable practices. The man driving the Audi TDI car could have very well been someone who did not undergo other sustainable practices. There is a reason that Audi shows people undergoing bad practices before they show someone driving their green car. The company wants the audience to think that there product is completely sustainable for the environment. The commercial in no way explains how driving cars hurts our environment and releases chemicals in to the air that harm the atmosphere.

Along with green product attributes, Audi uses environmental advocacy to advertise their product. Audi is encouraging people to purchase cars that are better for the planet and use cleaner fuel. The company displays reoccurring problems that are present in society and offers one solution or way to help the environment and that is by buying their green car.

While I am sure Audi had no intentions of offending people with their add, one group that could have been a little taken back by the ad are environmental advocates. It portrays environmentalists as people who are stuck up, over the top, and controlling. While environmentalists are serious about their work, they are not out there to punish anyone rather there intention is to help improve the quality of our earth.

While the environmental crisis at hand is a very serious issue I see nothing wrong with Audi’s message. They are trying to attract people to their product and clearly are using a little humor to do so. There are plenty of real life examples of green police that monitor what goes on in public. The arrests that the green police make on the people are all major issues that society is facing today. While the actions taken by the green police are very much embellished, there are numerous groups that serve as police for the environment and do enforce punishments on people who harm the environment.

Audi’s approach to this ad was done so in a very interesting and effective way. While it may have offended some environmentalists for its criticism towards how strict and passionate they can be, it still successfully made me intrigued in learning more about their product.

Critique by Scott smolensky