SF editor’s note: I can personally vouch for the speed, reliability and comfort of Midttrafik, as I relied on it during my semester in Denmark.
The idea of investing in transit is popular with Americans, even among those who don’t depend on it. But trains and buses, buses in particular, have always had an image problem. U.S. transit providers could take a cue from this Danish ad, which makes light of the mundane nature of bus travel (free handles!) in a way that actually makes transit look “cool.” Turn on the captions for the full effect.
In these advertisements Mazda and Universal claim that a new automobile is “Certified Truffula Tree Friendly” and imply an endorsement of their product by the cherished title character of “The Lorax.” By airing these advertisements, Mazda and Universal have shamelessly turned a character who has inspired millions of children to care about their environment into a car salesman. Cars–even ones that pollute a little less–are neither kid-friendly nor good for the environment.
We are calling on Mazda, Universal Pictures, and their partners to immediately remove any advertising that associates “The Lorax” with automobiles from all forms of media: print, television, radio, movie trailers, the internet, merchandising, etc.
And now, a few more revolting reasons to sign the petition:
Car sales are up, auto shows are packing them in, and the GM IPO was oversubscribed, but there may be no surer indicator of the auto industry’s recovery than the renewed avalanche of car ads rumbling across every medium. And there’s no better way to get a glimpse of what a born-again car culture might look like than to stay on the couch for a spell, un-mute the TV, and watch—that’s right, on purpose—a sample of 2010’s ads selling us our car-centric way of life. Here are some of the year’s most egregious attempts to get us into the dealership by conflating car ownership with American values.
Dodge Charger: “Man’s Last Stand”
Chrysler stokes the gender wars with this ad suggesting that the American male may seem to have been tamed by the boss and neutered by the wife, but all that the rebel within needs to bust out is a $38K fully loaded Dodge Charger. The road is his last refuge, the one place where he can still be a manly man. He’ll “eat fruit” at home, but he won’t be a fruit in control of the kind of growling, ferocious muscle car that had its heyday back when men last really had it good. (For a rejoinder, click here.)
Toyota Sienna: “Mommy Like”
How does a mom, stressed from commuting to work and shuttling the kids to soccer practice day in and day out, get away from it all? Why, of course, by spending more time in her vehicle! In this commercial for the Sienna minivan, Mommy steals some quality time alone—in the backseat where the kids usually get to have all the fun. The message? Auto dependence’s problems are solved not by driving less but by buying more, including a new car chock-a-block with luxury options to distract us from the aggravation and tedium of the average 18 ½ hours Americans sit in a car each week.
Western Union cellphone ad from 1984. Image via NYT
arose not long after it hit the market. External studies seemed to
confirm what industry insiders feared: The product could pose a public
health risk. But as sales soared, whistleblowers who didn’t leave their
jobs were forced to keep quiet. Companies maintained a posture of
denial as a mountain of damning evidence, some of it from their own
investigations, kept growing. Bowing to pressure, some consented to
warning labels and other notices, but still insisted that claims of
product-related injuries and deaths remained unproven.
It’s a familiar story. And in the latest installment of
its "Driven to Distraction" series, the NY Times lays out in detail how,
in this case, it was the mobile phone industry that continued to market its product
for use in a manner long believed to be hazardous to its customers and
the population at large. The result: As far back as seven years ago,
the Times reports, "drivers using cellphones were causing 2,600 fatal
crashes a year in the United States and 570,000 accidents that resulted
in a range of injuries, from minor to serious." Now a lawsuit, among
the first of its kind, has been filed against Samsung and Sprint Nextel
by a woman whose mother was killed by a distracted driver in Oklahoma City in 2008.
course a key issue is the line between provider and motorist
responsibility. The driver in this case, who pleaded to misdemeanor
negligent homicide, does not blame the cellular industry. "It’s our
choice if we’re going to talk on the cellphone while driving or walking
down the street or in the office," he said. "The cellphone companies
don’t say you should talk on the phone and drive."
The first time I saw this ad I thought my eyes and ears were deceiving me. But no, there it is: a young woman holding a cellphone toward the camera as "nüvifone" maker Garmin beckons viewers to "communicate while navigating."
"With my nüvifone, I can take calls from my friends while I'm driving to them," she says as she's shown piloting an SUV with two passengers, one of whom accepts an incoming call on a phone mounted to the windshield. (Note to Garmin: Hands-free is not brain-free.)
Maybe the most egregious aspect is the "Do not drive while distracted" disclaimer -- which pops up as the young woman is depicted driving while distracted.
the ad doesn't show: The driver plows her SUV through one of the
pedestrian-populated shots that follow, and bystanders whip out their
nüvifones to call 911, text their friends and photograph the carnage.
Toyota wants you to know that it's here for you. And not just as a car maker, as the company explains in this spot, ironically entitled "Community."
Like GM before them, Toyota wants to make sure you realize just how much their company means to you. Here's our voice-over:
"We acknowledge you are coming to despise automobiles, but your nation depends on our industry for so many jobs that, even if we only manufactured cardboard cut-out cars that you had to carry down your few remaining walkable Main Streets, you'd still need us, America."
Accompanying the ad is the aggressively cloying and patently manipulative "Beyond Cars" web site --
which if nothing else should serve as an irresistible culture-jamming target. What do we see, Toyota? For starters, we see a world where your product doesn't kill people.
According to Movieline (via New York Mag), Jay Leno's new prime time show, set to debut on NBC in September, hasn't exactly been generating a lot of buzz. But since nothing says funny like a grisly hit-and-run, this promo, co-starring Fred Armisen of "Saturday Night Live," should turn things around.
Though I'm pretty sure Leno has never gotten as much as a chuckle from me, I understand where the humor is supposed to be here. Yet for some reason the laughter isn't coming.
The government's Cash for Clunkers program officially begins today, but car dealers have been running ads like this one for a while already. They have to keep the public informed: Now you can trade in your old car and buy a brand-new SUV or pick-up truck with a hefty assist from Uncle Sam.
Here we have the government spending a billion dollars on about 250,000 vouchers for individual car buyers. Ostensibly, the purpose is to save some jobs and cut some emissions. Meanwhile, we're in the middle of a budget crisis affecting transit agencies serving 22 million Americans. Green jobs and emissions-reducing transportation are on the line. When DOT Secretary LaHood holds his press event on Monday touting the roll-out of Cash for Clunkers, someone should ask him how the Obama administration can justify this dubious car industry subsidy while hanging transit riders out to dry.
It's been a tumultuous week in more waysthan one. We're going to leave it behind with a flashback, via Cycelicious, to the late 1970s, when Farrah Fawcett pedaled to promote her own line of shampoo. What helmet could contain that hair?
What's more authentically American than boys suping up their rides and preening about town deafening all within earshot (reducing taxes, you say..)? The Speed Network series Hot Import Nights is the weekly sex-and-horsepower profile of the subculture, and as anyone who saw any of the Fast and the Furious movies in the Bay Area knows, selling these components to gear-heads is brisk business.
The NY-based NoiseOFF website has compiled a fascinating case against the manufacturers of car audio equipment, much of it drawn directly from product advertising, in which companies use slogans like "Turn it down? I don't think so." and "Be Loud. Be Obnoxious." to market their wares, mostly to young men with a misguided longing for attention and "respect" (I speak from experience here).
For insight into the twisted psychology of boom car ownership, and the perverse ways it is exploited by the car audio industry, get a load of this long-form ad from Pioneer (also featured on NoiseOFF), entitled "Disturb." Think that guy on the block cares that he's rattling windows and setting off car alarms? Hardly. More likely it's his reason for living.