Worst (green) Superbowl commercial ever — or best?

I’m glad the Saints won, but I must say my first reaction to this commercial by Audi was not positive:

I’m a big fan of humor but …

… I’m not sure the German car company understands that the idea of “Green Police” they are spoofing is, in fact, precisely what many conservatives in this country actually think is the primary reason people who care about the environment — the apparent target audience of this ad — are trying to get the nation to take action on global warming (see “The real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science“).

Indeed, as conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in 2008 in the Washington Post (where else?):

Environmentalists are Gaia’s priests, instructing us in her proper service and casting out those who refuse to genuflect”¦. And having proclaimed the ultimate commandment “” carbon chastity “” they are preparing the supporting canonical legislation that will tell you how much you can travel, what kind of light you will read by, and at what temperature you may set your bedroom thermostat.

None of this means the commercial can’t or won’t be effective.

But I do wonder about an advertising strategy whereby you basically poke fun at (some exaggerated version of) the zealousness of your target audience and would-be customers — people who care about the environment.  And I’d say even more here because Audi isn’t perceived as a green car company, so they aren’t poking fun at themselves, a typically much safer strategy.  See more of Audi’s whole “Green Police” campaign here.

Of course, it’s possible Audi isn’t actually targeting people who actually care about the environment….

Anyway, that’s just my first impression.  I’d love your thoughts.

66 Responses to Worst (green) Superbowl commercial ever — or best?

  1. Prokaryote says:

    Green diesel … omg.
    Now where are the EV1’s?

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Didn’t watch, but isn’t the best color for a car white?

    [JR: Silver.]

  3. Robert Nagle says:

    I hate this commercial a lot, but I think it’s trying to appeal to people who dislike the “eco-crazies.” But I have to wonder: what is so special about Audis? And why is Audi preying exploiting right-wing paranoia?

  4. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    The Audi “Green Police” Superbowl ad was a dumb mistake. Why play into the fanciful fears of the right-wing paranoid set by reinforcing a fictional fascist version of society’s transition to cleaner tech? It’s was like a paranoid Libertarian’s wet dream.

    I hate to use YouTube commentaries as a real barometer of anything, but you can see how many seem the ad as a reflection of what they think is the case.

    For a while, Sundance Channel was running an Australian reality show called, “Carbon Cops”, where moderators came into a home and gave people a hard time. That made me wince too, when I thought of how it might be misperceived.

    The messaging is all wrong. The real message is this: “Moving to clean tech makes me and my country MORE free, not LESS”.

    The other is that this scenario in the ad will never happen. Why? Because the bad stuff will just cost more. It will be priced out of existence and you wouldn’t have chosen the gas guzzler OR the $50 unsustainable fish at the restaurant anyway. No Nazis needed.

  5. CMann says:

    I thought it was the most deceptive and offensive ad I saw tonight. This is like ridiculing global warming because there is record snowfall. I’ll bet the Palin Tea crowd was hooked immediately, well before learning the product. And it would be nice if there really was something green about “clean diesels.” Other than generally higher MPG, they’re still dirtier emitting than gas vehicles and lower in efficiency than hybrids, if I’m not mistaken.

    “Clean coal” has met its match from the transportation sector. What’s next–“clean uranium”?

  6. PeterW says:

    Sigh…….I wonder what Germans would think of this ad.

    To quote Monty Python:
    And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
    Because there’s bugger all down here on Earth

  7. kenshin says:

    i think audi was trying to be cute & funny, and they may really be trying to be greener. but perhaps they should’ve audience-tested that commercial to it’s core potential buyers a bit more when creating the ad. i think most green folks might actually be cool enough to laugh at ourselves a little bit. (let’s face it, i’m already the green police around town.)

    still, i’d be happy if they actually start making and selling the car, it’s still a type of hybrid vehicle, and i’ve looked at these “green” diesels already, since there’s a local bio-diesel co-op near me. sadly, so many of those cars are out of a real price range for us, or are made as luxury only or trucks, which i don’t need or afford either.

    and, so many of these new cars are advertised to be released sometime in the future, to pump up stock prices, and then they are never actually released. it’s like greenwashing stocks.

    i think there ought to be a truly green version of car & driver. they test the vehicles for stupid details that only a racecar driver or my grandma would care about. seriously, our cars are so big now i feel like a kid in the armchair. i just want good reliable transport that doesn’t contribute to pollution, is that so hard?

    i was a bit disappointed in the honda insight when we test drove, but it’s at a good price. i’d really really like a full electric mini, as we have 100% wind power at our house. when the snowmaggedon clears up here in the DC area, we’ll go out and test drive some of the ford hybrids.

  8. knoxkp says:

    I’m laughing – I love satire – sadly the other side does not do or get satire. Right wing jokes always end with someone being killed or crushed or shat upon so they won’t understand this and will point to it as exactly what they’ve been trying to say was happening the whole time.

    Green diesel? sounds like something smokable or fictional like green coal.

  9. The Dude says:

    I think you’re all wrong. As a TDI owner I have to say this was an awesome commercial. TDI owners are a very loyal group. Individualistic. TDI technology produces a car that actually performs like a car, not a Barbie Power Wheel. I didn’t see the commercial as mocking eco-friendly individuals. I have CFLs, smart powerstrips, Energy Star appliances, and own a clean diesel TDI. I’m not a hippy, but I do chastise people I know who are wasteful with energy consumption or boast about their gas guzzling monstrosity. TDI owners can boast 236 lb-ft of torque, DSG sport transmission, and european styling while achieving 38-50 real world MPH. Beat that Prius. It was by far the best, most poignant commercial of the Super Bowl.

  10. Prokaryote says:

    8: “sounds like something smokable or fictional like green coal.”

    Biochar is charcoal created by pyrolysis of biomass, and differs from charcoal only in the sense that its primary use is not for fuel, but for biosequestration or atmospheric carbon capture and storage.[1] Charcoal is a stable solid rich in carbon content, and thus, can be used to lock carbon in the soil. Biochar is of increasing interest because of concerns about climate change caused by emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG). Carbon dioxide capture also ties up large amounts of oxygen and requires energy for injection (as via carbon capture and storage), whereas the biochar process breaks into the carbon dioxide cycle, thus releasing oxygen as did coal formation hundreds of millions of years ago. Biochar is a way for carbon to be drawn from the atmosphere and is a solution to reducing the global impact of farming (and in reducing the impact from all agricultural waste). Since biochar can sequester carbon in the soil for hundreds to thousands of years[2], it has received considerable interest as a potential tool to slow global warming.

  11. Ryan_T says:

    If anything, the commercial reflects a future in which obstructionists got their way and delayed an orderly transition from heavy fossil fuel dependence. Clean diesel is perhaps a step up from a conventional gasoline vehicle, but one that still benefits from the higher energy density of diesel, and doesn’t benefit from regenerative braking like a hybrid. I’d like to see ratings in the U.S. for average emissions per mile, so “greenness” can actually be compared on an apples to apples basis.

  12. adin says:

    do we have this conversation about beer? no. so yes, it works.

  13. Doug Bostrom says:

    Apologies to Audi drivers who get that they are part of society and thus share the road without getting lost in sociopathic Nürburgring fantasies, but in general Audi’s ad campaigns seem to have produced a self-selected group of owner/drivers who behave as if Audi were German for “A__hole.” At least, that’s what I think every time I see four rings and an obnoxious set of projection headlamps glittering impatiently in my rear view mirror from the tailgating position.

  14. On the contrary, this was excellent. It framed the issues and put it before people in clear ways… right now they are using it to sell a car, but suddenly people may doubt whether it is proper to have an incandescent bulb, etc. Kudos to the advertisers. (of course it is a lower carbon footprint to keep the old used car and just use it less)

    Far more fascinating was the Dodge Charger commercial
    It clearly spelled out the oppressive quid-pro-quo – of selling one’s soul in the work place and then buying a fast car to compensate… ostensibly evil, this clearly spells out the bargain that we all strike in the workplace. We take abuse, we give abuse.

    I think it was terrifically insightful. And many a testosterone twenty something will want one…and may buy one, but now they will know the reason why… and will be that much closer to changing the system.

  15. Lou Grinzo says:

    Add me to the list of people who yelled something quite obscene at my TV because of this ad. It really felt to me like Audi was saying, “Want to say big ol’ F-you to everyone whining about eco this and enviro that? We’ve got your car!”

    Of course, as someone pointed out above, clean diesels aren’t worth it in terms of emissions/mile. If we make a big breakthrough in algae diesel and run them on that, then we’ve got something. But as long as they’re burning dino-juice (a.k.a. pre-sequestered carbon) pulled out of the ground, not so much.

  16. Lou Grinzo says:

    Oh, and as for the infantile Charger commercial–I think it was very insulting (and it won’t teach the testosterone infused young guys a thing). Once I saw where it was going, I almost expected them to say you should buy one to compensate for personal (ahem) shortcomings.

  17. TomG says:

    I’ll give Audi marks for this one.
    If you’re going after the green market, the first thing you have to leave behind are the right wingnut idiots.

  18. paulm says:

    mmm…how many tons of CO2 did it take to do it?

  19. Chris Dudley says:

    Dreamy tune. Probably the reason for the whole concept. Though, as you say, it is a bit of a cheap trick.

  20. viennariver says:

    I agree with richard pauli (14) above on this one, I didn’t find it offensive and I think it will serve its purpose.

    And as far as “clean diesel” is concerned, I generally appreciate the attempts of researchers/engineers attempting to make cleaner more efficient engines regardless of their type. SI and diesel run engines will be around for decades (possibly longer?) to come so we might as well clean them up as best we can.

  21. Stepshep says:

    Even the New York Times agrees with you. (No big suprise there.)

  22. Jim Eaton says:

    Yeah, the right wing will think this is a documentary (Fox?) news piece.

    But I think it is important to be able to laugh at ourselves. The issues we deal with are quite serious, but from time-to-time it is nice to smile and even laugh out loud. We’ll live longer for doing so.

    And San Francisco does require that you compost your food scraps, so this commercial did seem to push all the right green buttons.

  23. Wonhyo says:

    I thought the commercial was plain weird until it became obvious it was a “clean diesel” commercial. As others have pointed out, I don’t think diesel is particularly clean, not even modern turbo diesel.

    For an audience of ecologically conscientious liberals, this could have been funny (even more so if Audi were a green company).

    For the American audience, including the climate science denying Right, I’m afraid this commercial fuels their anti-environmentalist sentiment.

    Whether or not it sells more Audi TDIs, I think the commercial hurts the green vehicle movement.

  24. Robin Gilbert says:

    Was that an anteater? Why?

  25. Craig says:

    I’m not sure about Audi’s marketing strategy in this commercial. More interesting to me is what it may say about the public’s perception of “greens”.

    Unfortunately, much of that perception is deserved.

    A large number of ecologically conscious people on the left seem to want to fight the climate battle as consumers rather than citizens.

    I witness this daily in my hometown of Minneapolis. I see well meaning people obsess about the choices they are presented as consumers in the marketplace. Paper or plastic. Organic clementines versus the cheaper non-organic kind. Take that vacation in the Bahamas or stay home.

    I don’t mean to belittle such people. All of these questions are important and we as consumers can certainly send a powerful signal based on the choices we make. And undoubtedly conservation is an important part of any real climate solution.

    But when a green lifestyle becomes equated with moral superiority, it then becomes self defeating. A great number of these lifestyle choices are based on economic status or political persuasion. If you have enough money, you can be green. If you are liberal, then you calculate your carbon footprint.

    Many individuals on the left seem to think that being green somehow gives them an elevated status. Quite frankly it comes across as pure snobbery. And a great number of people who, for whatever reasons, choose not to be environmentally friendly are turned off by this.

    The central battle is not in the marketplace. The real struggle is in the public forum. To prevent a destabilized climate we are going to need to reorganize our energy economy. Considering the forces arrayed against such change, this will be the most difficult political movement in history.

    So here’s my message to many liberals: Put down the organic tomatoes. Pick up the phone and call your representative. And then ask your friend to do the same. And then confront directly the next person you hear calling climate change a hoax. Ask him if he is willing to explain to his children fifty years from now why he took an ideological stand on a non-political problem.

  26. fj2 says:

    Absolutely hilarious! A green car is pretty much an oxymoron. Of course, it’s rather bad form to have fun at the expense of the mentally disadvantaged.

  27. Jean-Loup says:

    “Green Diesel”?? Was there an advert for “Clean Coal” just before or something? O.o

    The irony is, my first thought was “well Audi is German, the primary colour of the police uniform in Germany is green… ergo” … well not quite :(

  28. BillD says:

    Yesterday I read an article on the Front page of the Fort Wayne newspaper reprinted from the Washinton Post and purportedly written by Alice Rivlin and the Brookings Institute. The idea is that increased energy efficiency is leading to a decline in revenues to support the highway system. Therefore we need to have a road use tax to increase the relative tax payment by high milage vehicles. Why would we want reduce incentives for energy efficiency and alternatives to gasoline? Perhaps a more productive approach would be to encourage smoking, so that more money from cigarette taxes can go to health care. The article was too long to be a satire–I guess that this was a serious proposal. What we need next is a road tax on Amish buggies and bicycles.

  29. Wit's End says:

    rpauli, leaving out walking the dog, that ad seemed to me to be less a rebellion against stifling work conditions (5 objections) and far more a litany of wife/girlfriend resentment (10 complaints). Quite obnoxious, that.

  30. Jimmy says:

    The Swedes have always enjoyed humoring the Danes..

  31. PSU Grad says:

    Without trying to seem “flip”, I recall the words of Sgt Hulka in the movie Stripes….”Lighten up Francis”. My wife watched the commercial with me and thought it was one of the best of the night. She’s on board with the concept of warming and being “green”, but she’s not fanatical about it. To her (and me) it’s just a common sense thing to do. And we both realize we have a very, very long way to go.

    She thought it was incredibly effective. That was her yardstick…not whether it was ha-ha funny (though that helped with some) but whether it was effective in remembering both the ad and the company. She thought the Audi commercial did both (we’re talking about it, aren’t we?). The key point was that you had no idea what the ad was for until the end. That seems to be the kind of ad that works with us (unless it’s totally stupid, which a few were).

    Sometimes a little over the top humor is a good thing, lest any of us take ourselves too seriously.

  32. espiritwater says:

    I felt insulted.

  33. espiritwater says:

    I liked the last scene though– with the cop.

  34. Zan says:

    I kind of liked it a little because as a one-time songwriter, I’d never thought of “The Green Police,” and I think
    we have to admit that that part of it worked musically. It was a tad rightish, but no more so than South Park.
    There was a book in which conservatives claimed South Park as their own, but they didn’t get that South Park
    skewers all sides. They saw what they wanted to see. Same here. It’s almost a Rorschach Test. It accurately
    describes everyday recycling concerns. Of course that ad is never going to happen and if rightists think it
    will, then the joke is kind of on them. Just because some people are stupid doesn’t mean we can’t have some funny, intelligent commercials.

    We saw on our TV schedule, a block for 2 hours of Super Bowl ads. We DVR most ads, Bowl or otherwise, but a retrospective of the Simpsons led me to believe that maybe it was like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit
    Edition of Super Bowl ads(LOL). That was the only rationale I could think of for 2 hours of nothing but ads.

  35. espiritwater says:

    I worked for this lady from Spain. Her mother-in-law, who is from Germany, came to the U.S. to visit and she was shocked at how much stuff we Americans throw into the trash. She said that in Germany they recycle almost everything. Food scraps are thrown out on the compost, small yogurt cups are recycled, even staws, napkins, etc. from McDonald’s are recycled. They have a bin at the airport with various compartments for different materials to be recycled, rather than just a waste bin like here in the US. They only have a small bag- like the size of a grocery store bag – which they discard each week as trash and it’s expensive. I don’t think that’s something to laugh at, but rather to emulate.

  36. Tim L. says:

    I agree with PSU Grad (#31): let’s all just take a deep breath and lighten up here. Right-wing climate disinformers won’t accept fact-based arguments, so I think it’s a waste of energy to worry that this ad will somehow keep us from persuading them or even fence-sitters about climate change. In fact, maybe our own messaging could stand to learn a lesson here: humor can be an effective way to skewer the arguments of the other side. (Like those “clean coal” ads we’ve seen.) For for God’s sake, if one Audi ad would be enough to undo action on climate, then we’re in deeper trouble than we’d ever imagined. I, for one, think we can affort to laugh and learn and use humor to advance action on climate change.

  37. Mike#22 says:

    The commercial feature the A3, with the 2.0 liter TDI clean diesel. This engine “The 2.0L TDI is compliant with the stringent Tier 2, Bin 5/ULEV II emissions standards that apply in California and all 50 U.S. state” and because of it’s higher efficiency, emits about 25% less CO2 per mile than an equivalent gas car.

    Which is why he A3 diesel get excellent marks on the Greenhouse Gas Score in the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide

    Safe bet that the first (non plugged) IC production passenger car to beat 100 mpg will be running a clean diesel. Polo Bluemotion is close right now.

  38. Jonah says:

    You know, I guess I would find it funnier if those who actually cared about efficiency, CFLs or recycling were in the majority. I don’t think we are. I felt like I was back in high school, getting made fun of for the (admittedly unpopular) things I cared about. It’s easy to take a swipe at the nerds.

    Then again, I’m probably being oversensitive. I did think the music was catchy.

  39. Mike#22 says:

    Yes, it was an anteater.

    “The pride of Wild Things in Salinas makes his commercial debut for Audi, as a plastic-sniffing anteater bent on saving the environment.”

  40. B Buckner says:

    The ad was hilarious, lighten up people. Audi’s message is simply you can drive a fun, prestigious car and still be green.

  41. Berbalang says:

    I had mixed feelings about the commercial and would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t know people who actual think that way about being green.

    Personally I have practical reasons for doing things considered “Green” by many. CFLs throughout the house because I got tired of climbing on chairs changing incandescent bulbs. I prefer paper to plastic bags because I find the paper ones more useful. Plus we have a cat that loves to eat plastic bags and we really don’t want the vet bill that would result from this.

  42. Sean Thomse says:

    38-50 real world MPH?

    doubtful. I know TDI owners. they report nothing of the sort.

  43. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    I think there is some confusion here in this thread about what the complaint is. Its NOT that we can’t take a parody or laugh at ourselves. We can. The ad even had good comic timing.

    The problem is that it stokes a fire in a population that literally believes their lives are about to be taken over, ala “1984”. They are paranoid, short on facts, mistaken on concepts, and are armed. And its not just a few drunks down at a bar in po-dunk. Its Congresspeople like Michelle Bachman, and very popular pundits like Glenn Beck.

    We’re talking about the population who believed ‘death panels’ were a real thing and brought healthcare legislation to a halt in this country. This Audi TV ad is the ‘death panels’ campaign. Watch. Read the comments below the YouTube video.

    [JR: Exactly. Also, it’s not like Audi is some uber-green car company poking fun at itself or its customers.]

  44. Steve H says:

    Whoa. If you have any doubt as to the reasoning capabilities of deniers, please do read the comments to the Youtube video as Mr. Johnson above has recommended. It makes me want to go try some K2 before the conservatives ban it. A good percentage of the people state that they won’t buy Audi because they viewed the commercial as ADVOCATING green police.

    [JR: No humor or satire can be so broad that you won’t find some people who will take it seriously. That’s the way it has always been and always will be. It’s one reason I have a “humor” category.]

  45. Dennis says:

    I was likewise troubled by the “Green Police” ad. I hear complaints from conservatives all the time that they are being “forced” to be “green” and this ad’s impact was to just perpetuate the mythology that environmentalism is “forced” upon us.

    Of course, none of these conseratives think twice about being “forced” to use a garbage can rather than tossing their refuse into the middle of the street.

  46. Eugene says:

    Would it have been funny if it was talking about our military serving in Iraq or Afghanistan? Certainly not. It would have been considered outrageous and rightly so. This is ridicule via the medium of televsion advertising–one of the most influential cultural forces that exists today.

  47. Chris Dudley says:

    Just so everybody knows what is being parodied:

    The Dream Police: Cheap Trick (a rock band)

    Words and Music by Rick Nielsen

    The dream police, they live inside of my head.
    The dream police, they come to me in my bed.
    The dream police, they’re coming to arrest me, oh no.

    You know that talk is cheap, and those rumors ain’t nice.
    And when I fall asleep I don’t think I’ll survive the night, the night.

    ‘Cause they’re waiting for me.
    They’re looking for me.
    Ev’ry single night they’re driving me insane.
    Those men inside my brain.

    The dream police, they live inside of my head.
    (Live inside of my head.)
    The dream police, they come to me in my bed.
    (Come to me in my bed.)
    The dream police, they’re coming to arrest me, oh no.

    Well, I can’t tell lies, ’cause they’re listening to me.
    And when I fall asleep, bet they’re spying on me tonight, tonight.

    ‘Cause they’re waiting for me.
    They’re looking for me.
    Ev’ry single night they’re driving me insane.
    Those men inside my brain.

    I try to sleep, they’re wide awake, they won’t let me alone.
    They don’t get paid or take vacations, or let me alone.
    They spy on me, I try to hide, they won’t let me alone.
    They persecute me, they’re the judge and jury all in one.

    ‘Cause they’re waiting for me.
    They’re looking for me.
    Ev’ry single night they’re driving me insane.
    Those men inside my brain.

    The dream police police police
    The dream police,police police
    The dream police,police police

    There were a number of 70’s bands that were influenced by advertising jingles, like Cheap Trick, The Police, and later (80’s) Men At Work. This comes full circle as the jingle-like music gets recycled into advertising. Green is pretty incidental here. It just happens to rhyme with Dream. After that they built an SNL-like skit to be entertaining.

  48. I’m surprised no one has mentioned three beer commercials earlier in the game, each of which commented, intentionally or not, on climate change or, for that matter, and serious threat our country faces.

    In one, a team of astronomers realize an asteroid will destroy the earth. “There’s only one thing to do,” one says, and pulls out some Bud Light. Everyone parties. Turns out the asteroid has shrunk to the size of a pebble by the time it reaches the earth. “We’re saved!” Party continues. This ad is a climate denier’s dream: Even if climate change is real, there’s nothing to be done, and chances are it’s all a hoax, so party on.

    In another, a man rushes into a small town diner and shouts out that the bridge into town is out. No one seems to care, until he says there’s a bud light delivery truck on the other side. Then everyone joins together to form a human bridge so the truck can cross the stream and deliver the beer. The teamwork and community spirit displayed inthe commercial is everything a country sabataged by complacency, division and denial is incapable of. Can anyone imagine these ads being shown in the months following 9/11?

    In a third, the survivors of a planecrash lie on the beach of an island. One of them, a woman, finds the plane’s radio equipment and excitedly tells the others there’s now a chance they can get off the island.No one looks very interested. A man calls out, saying he found the plane’s beverage cart, full of beer. “Here we go,” says the captain, as everyone heads for the beer, ignoring the woman who is actually trying to save them. It’s understandable that escapism would go over well with a football audience, but the ad portrays all too accurately our country’s reaction to those who offer practical ways of getting out of the environmental and fiscal holes we continue to dig.

    After seeing those three commercials, and the Dodge Charger one, the Green Police was looking like the coup de grace, the ultimate ridicule of environmental earnestness. To my surprise, it had a different message. Escape your guilt by actually buying a car that gets decent mileage. Last year I drove a minivan in Spain that I didn’t even realize was a diesel until I went to fill the tank. It got 50mpg, if my calculations were close. Made by GM. If not for cheap gas, corporate indifference and lack of government incentive, we might have had them here years ago. Of course, it’s sad that a car that barely gets better mileage than the ’86 Camry I once owned is being offered as a solution.

  49. Mike#22 says:

    Sean Thomse says: 38-50 real world MPH?


  50. Nannyb says:

    At first I thought, “cool, these people actually understand the small things they do make an impact.” However, I obviously thought it a little silly and over exaggerated. Then it turned into a car commercial and I thought, “Wow, typical idiots.” I agree with one of the above comments about green diesel and clean coal. Who comes up with these ridiculous slogans? Obviously if the car were green it would be completely electric run or run on hydrogen cells, or at the very least have a MPG that was around 60mpg. My only hope is that if people see it, a light bulb will go off in their head telling them that every little choice, plastic bag, Styrofoam cup, compost, recycle, etc. makes a difference. It’s funny that we can get arrested for smoking a plant in our homes, but no one can touch us if we ravage the land that we live on.

  51. Alex says:

    I don’t see the whole brouhaha. Frankly, I’d still rather have a Camaro. And please spare me whatever arguments you have about global warming or oil or my member size or that I really don’t need 400 horsepower. I’m a gearhead, and I wanted a Camaro ever since I was young. If you don’t like it, just ignore it and let me get one and enjoy it with the millions of muscle car gearheads.

    And the first person to mention the Tesla Roadster and how I should get one will be laughed at in the face, thanks.

  52. Bud Man says:

    Hi Joe,

    Great you brought this up. I can see how the ad could be offensive to those of us who are concerned about all of these issues, but I also think it’s a bit of a test of our ability to laugh at ourselves. (I did.)

    I think this ad is similar to other ads for this Super Bowl that were about manhood being under seige. (Note all the offenders in this ad were male.) Basically, the theme is, “in a world where you have fewer and fewer choices, you can still do the right thing, plus keep your vroom vroom vroom, in an Audi”.

    I think it was a relatively gentle joke. We have to acknowledge that even the relatively minor rules and changes coming into place now are frustrating for those who didn’t grow up with them. Humor can simultaneously express and ease frustration. I think Audi managed to accomplish that here, within an American idea of what’s funny. Not bad.


  53. Bud Man says:

    PS I’m always going to be biased in favor of any ad that respectfully channels Cheap Trick.

  54. Brendan says:

    I think we’re at a point in history where pretty much the only people left who will actually take this seriously are the fringe that have been, and always will be, dragged kicking and screaming into the future. The majority are smart enough to realize it’s satire are not going to join the minority of crazies who take this seriously; so there’s really no harm done. The crazies will still believe their rigid ideology with unwavering faith regardless of seeing this. This isn’t convincing anyone to become “ungreen.” Those who take this seriously will never be truly convinced that they should be concerned about the environment (unless, of course, there are extreme personal problems caused by it). This is just like many who grew up in the first half of the 20th century that were never convinced that there should be equal rights for minorities before they passed away. Nothing was going to convince them to change. The times changed, even if they didn’t. If anything, this commercial makes the anti-environmentalists look more fringe and out of date by showing that being green has become commonplace enough that it can be poked fun at.

    That said, I’m not sure that Audi is the right company to be putting out the commercial; it comes off as pandering from them. It would certainly have been more appropriate coming from a company that has some history putting effort into their green presence like Toyota or Honda (or even Audi’s partner VW, who’ve had a much longer diesel presence). Had it been one of those companies, it would have come off as a bit more self deprecating rather than coming off as “hey, we’re hip and with the times like those guys, too.” I would think most Audi buyers would know this is a bit of a fib, so I’m not quite sure why they thought it would be effective advertising.

    I’ve never been a fan of the types who only want me to use only one square of toilet paper (do a search if you don’t know what I’m referring to). I think these types do the same for the green cause that the Birthers to the conservative cause. It just makes anything related to them look crazy, regardless of whether it is or not. After all, even a Birther gets it right once in a while, but I and many others immediately discount any statement from them as the rantings of a lunatic. You can’t get your message across if people think you’re crazy. It’s one thing to push the Overton Window (say, tax toilet paper made from virgin wood), and it’s another to smash it (tell me I should use 1 square per bathroom visit). This commercial is a sure sign that the widow has been pushed in the direction of the environmental movement. If the “green police” are something that most people can understand and laugh at, then that’s a good thing. If the new “fringe” is the idea that there could be “green police” that’s a lot better than it being completely outside the realm of possibility.

    I think this is pretty much the same question as asking if Chris Rock is funny or offensive. If you think his jokes reinforce stereotypes, then you probably don’t understand the audience. “Grandpa” isn’t going to become MORE racist after hearing a Chris Rock joke. Personally, growing up in a rural, almost exclusively white area, I think it was better that I got those stereotypes from Chris Rock on TV than a racist neighbor. The framing is important. Similarly, it’s better this idea is attached to a “greenwashing” car company than the crazy extremist who actually believes it’s going to happen and says, “we shouldn’t start down the slippery slope of environmentalism!”

  55. John P says:

    I noticed one flavor of the replys here. Seems a group here think a Diesel powered car is somehow less enviromentaly friendly and even went so far as to say an electric car would be so much more enviromentaly friendly. I feel bad many are so ignorant to believe such rubbish. A modern diesel engine can beat gasoline engines and electrical cars hands down. What do these readers think electricity comes from an electrical line? Ignorant people make stupid choices. Sincerely, John.

    [JR: Not hands down, I’m afraid. And if you don’t deal with the black carbon, the diesel is no better than an ICE for GHGs. Also, it is considerably easier to make electricity carbon free than diesel. But an advanced diesel hybrid can certainly be a very fuel efficient car. The only thing better would be an advanced diesel plug in hybrid.

    I feel bad that people come here with their condescending air, but don’t even take the time to go to any of the links.]

  56. John P says:

    JR, My point is just the “naivety” of some people. They think diesel and they think a 1970’s 500 hp diesel truck blowing the black particulate. And they forget electricity comes from Coal, NG, Nuclear, Hydro and Diesel powered plants. That lose efficiency at every step including the burning phase, the generating phase, the transmission phase and finally the car charging phase, where as there is quite a lot of loss in the form of heat from the charging phase. Sincerely, John.

    [JR: All forms of motive power lose efficiency at every phase, diesels as much as any. But you want to run your car on carbon-free energy that ain’t gonna run out, electricity is the ultimate winner.]

  57. Richard Brenne says:

    Let’s take the really long view. I’m just curious what our descendents 100 years or more in the future will say about each of us feeling we had the Divine right to use 400 horsepower vehicles to go anywhere our hedonistic whims took us. My guess? They’ll curse us for all eternity, and ours will be the most detested generations in all history. But the anteater was cute.

  58. Bill says:

    I thought of actually explaining why the ad was offensive, but found so many self-righteous and self-conscious posters here it was hard to believe it would be read and understood properly. Nevertheless…
    It is perfectly reasonable to imagine that you are protecting the planet, but be assured, the planet has dealt with much more than all humanity has and can do, over the past billion years or so and somehow ended up intact (which is not to say unchanged). Keep in mind that people do not automatically fall in line – and in my view this is perfectly natural – when other people arrogate to themselves the right to be in charge. I see no humor in fascism, whatever benefit it pretends to, and given the German experience both wrt Nazism and post-war DDR, find Audi’s use of that theme in very bad taste.

  59. That was my thought on watching this commercial- that is doing a fair job of predicting where the worshippers of the Green God want to take our nation. The fascist theme of an all-powerful government swooping in to punish people for ‘crimes’ that aren’t really crimes fits nicely with the reality of what Believers of the Green God want to really do. The Audi ad is about 20 years off, unless the Believers are stopped.

  60. Mike#22 says:

    [I feel bad that people come here with their condescending air, but don’t even take the time to go to any of the links.]

    Me too.

  61. David says:

    By far the funniest bit in the superbowl. Reflected the majority view of Americans (and honest scientists)broadcast. Energy efficiency is something most folks believe in, they just don’t have such thin skin as the environmental advocacy extremists who were offended by the Ad.

  62. CMann says:

    A lot of people want to believe that the greediest choice is the greenest one too. That is a major problem in a society that refuses to make hard choices and these morons are that ones Audi is tapping into. Jacob Weisberg nails them:

    The ad is a Cheap Trick but more appropriate music might be (Michele) Bachmann Turner Overdrive.

  63. CMann says:

    #37. If your state is like mine at the EPA link:

    -A3 Diesel: Pollution Score: 6/10 (worst on page); GHG Emissions: 8/10; Horsepower: 200; MPG: 30/42

    -Ford Fusion Hybrid: Pollution Score: 8/10 (2nd best on page); GHG Emissions: 10/10; Horsepower: 191; MPG: 41/36

  64. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    To Bill #58
    Nobody anywhere claims that the Earth hasnt been through more destructive changes. Thats never been the point. The point has been keeping this sliver of semi-stable climate that allowed the agricultural revolution to occur around 10,000 BCE, to remain, more or less, intact.

    To David #61
    As I said above, there is no thin skin here. The concern wasn’t for us. It was for the paranoid set and the misinformed.

  65. David says:


    The purpose of the ad was blatant greenwashing by Audi. The rest was humor, and if “the rest” offended you, by definition, you have thin skin.

  66. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    David #65

    This blog isnt really the place for a discussion of syntax and semantics, and back and forth, but I dont know how to be any more clear about this. I’m not personally offended. Perhaps if I spoke in metaphor :

    I’m not offended by a web page with pornography, but I fear it would be misunderstood and potentially confusing and harmful for a 9 year old because they dont have the brain-space for it.

    That is the case with the Audi ad and the population of viewers I’m speaking of. The comments around the ad , and recent history with Bachman/Beck, prove my assertion that this is the case.

    In this instance, this really, really, isnt about me.