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.