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I saw this commercial for the new all-electric Nissan Leaf on TV recently and was blown away.

Before anyone accuses me of being a corporate shill, I have no ties to Nissan and am really not that informed about its new car. I do believe that commercials, like the famous Keep America Beautiful ads in the 1960s featuring the Native American with a tear, sometimes affect culture, politics and the national zeitgeist.

Besides, the message is essentially green left.  It strikes a fine balance between altruism, environmental fear-mongering and pocketbook issues incredibly well.  It could be an ad by Greenpeace except a car is mentioned at the end.  More below the fold.

Traditional marketing tells us that consumers only buy products to meet their personal needs and desires.  But they’ve overlooked the strong altruistic streak that runs through the human race. In other words, people can be as motivated by helping others as they can by helping themselves. We wouldn’t have gotten as far as we have without it.

The Nissan Leaf ad turns the traditional marketing focus on its head by boldly asking us to consider what “zero” pollutants can do for the planet and the children yet to be born. (If it sounds familiar, that is the voice of “Ironman” actor Robert Downey, Jr.)

There’s a lot of subtleties going on as well, which makes the ad all that more captivating and memorable. Sprinkled amid the powerful images of nature is a child’s alphabet block and bicycle, as well as a recycling can.  Images of food and water are featured as well, tying a healthy natural world to our ability to subsist.

When Downey says, “Imagine zero dependency on foreign oil,” there’s a quick cut to a $10 bill. When he refers to zero pollutants in our environment, the uglier images of gas and oil are shown. A frog raises his eye when zero depletion of the ozone is mentioned, which has been tied to the disappearance of frog populations around the world.

Things get even more pointed with images of a melted iceberg and a terrifying-looking, massive, swirling hurricane seen from above.  After several more images, the ad transitions to the belly shot of a very pregnant woman.

You get it.  The preciousness and precariousness of life, the dependence of humans upon a functioning natural world. And then the money shot, literally.  A gas pump meter going backwards and the last “zero” or circle – the round electric plug being removed from a Leaf.

“Innovation for the planet, innovation for all,” Downey says.

This is sophisticated green marketing, and a milestone as well.  A major company is placing the most pressing environmental issues of our time front and center as part of its sales job.  

Not sure what kind of car sales Nissan will see, but they may change a few minds about people's environmental responsibilities and what the stakes truly are.

For more thoughts along these lines, please visit my Green Asteroid blog.

Originally posted to greenasteroid on Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 11:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by What are you watching? and Electronic America: Progressives Film, music & Arts Group.


How much did you like the Leaf advert?

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| 15 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    Green is good:

    by bogmanoc on Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 11:55:01 AM PDT

  •  I'm still hoping (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that the next few generations of this vehicle will lead to a longer-range car with a lower price point.

    The commercial's nice but the car's just a nascent technology right now... not enough to break the oil habit.

    We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. -- Jonathan Swift

    by raptavio on Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 12:02:11 PM PDT

  •  Have to be a bit careful about commercials (0+ / 0-)

    For, example, the famous Keep America Beautiful ad you cite was very effective, but the Native American featured, Iron Eyes Cody was not actually NA, but a second-generation Italian-American (as am I!), and the tear was glycerine.

    It probably doesn't really matter, but it bothers me a bit just the same.  

    There was also a campaign using the 'famous words' of Chief Joseph Seattle, which were apparently completely apocryphal.  Again it probably doesn't matter too much in a sense, but like the acceptance of fakes into the canon of fine art it distorts the truth and can lead to bad scholarship down the line.

    Nothing against the Leaf ad, at all.  But I see too many instances of people who reference some things without being aware of the bogosity.  However 'true' they may be in a non-literal sense.  I suppose that may be the truth of art.  A philosophical question really worthy of serious discussion.

    Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

    by triplepoint on Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 01:17:44 PM PDT

  •  Sorry, got carried away above. (0+ / 0-)

    The Leaf ad was very good, effectively coupling graphics design to the emotional content of the images.

    But the car itself has a limited niche.  For example, my wife, who has driven a Prius for five years, is convinced that for her, an all-electric car with 40-50 miles per charge, simply wouldn't work (as we live in the suburbs and multi-stop trips very often exceed 50 miles), and that it might be best suited for an urban environment where mass transit ought to be used and encouraged.

    I personally love the idea of a plug-in electric car, but see it as at most a placeholder till hydrogen-fueled fuel cells become available.  Actually, they recently have become more practical with cheaper catalysts just being developed, but the availability of a hydrogen distribution infrastructure is a prerequisite.  Chicken and egg.

    Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

    by triplepoint on Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 01:32:51 PM PDT

  •  It's funny you highlight this commercial (0+ / 0-)

    I saw it somewhere else online, and ended up turning it off half-way through.  It simply didn't seem to go anywhere and I got impatient with it.

    I watched it all the way through just now, and rated it "OK;" though I almost chose "Eh..."  

    I actually resented having to sit through the whole thing to finally find out what the ad was for.  I dislike those kinds of advertisements.  They actually work in reverse for me -- they make me like the product being advertised even less than I did beforehand.

    That said, after our kids are out of college and my 11-year old Acura starts costing significantly more to keep (it's just gas and standard maintenance now -- a very good car), I'll be looking at the Leaf and its electric competitors.  

  •  "Value of Zero" is misleading. I support a move (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    away from carbon-based energy, but until 100% of our electricity and the power needed to run heavy industry comes from renewables, there just isn't any such thing as "zero".

    Who knew? Ignorance isn't bliss after all; it's only simple-minded certitude!

    by aggieric on Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 02:45:08 PM PDT

    •  Absolutely true (0+ / 0-)

      but consumer education is still key, and I think the commercial serves that purpose.

      Why we all can't power our cars (at least here in California) with solar panels on our rooftops is beyond me.  But I think it's coming.

      Green is good:

      by bogmanoc on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 05:25:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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