“Ad-Nauseum”: Audi Takes Greenwashing to the Next Level

Picture a future where a smiling multi-racial police force, who apparently answers to nobody, moves unchecked through society arresting and detaining people for offenses to the environment.  Use plastic bags at the grocers?  You’re arrested, frisked, and handcuffed before being frog marched from the store.  Set your hot tub at too high a temperature?  You’re chased, mostly naked, through your back yard by a hoard of police officers.  Sound like a nightmare scenario dreamed up by a conservative talk radio host?  Nope, it’s just another greenwashing attempt from the same car company that mocks cyclists, bus riders, pedestrians and people who drive cars run on vegetable oil.

Audi’s offering for the Super Bowl, “The Green Police”, is really something to behold.  From the admittedly catchy theme song parodying “The Dream Police,” performed by eighties super-cover band Cheap Trick, to the celebration of gestapo tactics against environmental offenders; Green Police has something for everyone.  The Huffington Post calls the advertisement “hilarious,” while Grist beams that “The ad only makes sense if it’s aimed at people who acknowledge the moral authority of the green police.”  Of course, the only way to avoid the unchecked power of the Green Police is to buy an Audi that is powered by “clean diesel.”

Completely absent from the commercial is any mention or image of cyclists or pedestrians, which is actually sort of an improvement from past ads.  The aforementioned vegetable oil powered car?  It’s still waiting at a Green Police Vehicle Checkpoint while Audi’s are waived through.  The attractiveness of the segway seems to have improved since it was mocked last fall, the electric powered vehicle is now the transportation of choice for the Green Police…when they’re not in their helicopter or car caravan.

But Audi inadvertently has sent the correct message to the middle-class masses who might be interested in purchasing their diesel fleet: That buying this car is the best way to feel good about yourself without really doing much for the environment.  After all, it’s the same paramilitary police force that sees that car as the answer to our environmental crisis that can’t compute the amount of environmental destruction caused by a helicopter raid against someone not composting or surrounding a house with squad cars because the person isn’t disposing of their batteries correctly.

  • JW

    God I hate the term “green.”

    It’s almost as bad as things being 2.0.

    This would be hilarious if it wasn’t true, but soon someone will start pitching ideas as “Green 2.0”

  • It is a funny ad, but at a starting MSRP of $30,000 (not including tax, delivery, and options) that car is a rather expensive way to emit 6.2 tons of CO2 annually (http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm).

    That’s enough money to buy 120 bicycles at $250 each, or about 40 years of Metro’s monthly transit passes at the current rate of $62/month. I’m sure you could buy a lot of comfortable walking shoes too . . .

  • Erik G.

    A) It was a Super Bowl Commercial, which are often over the top; for example I do not think that the IBM PC is really “Big Brother”, despite what Apple would have had us believe in 1984. I also know that most professional sports athletes will not accept opened soft-drinks from strangers, even in Pittsburgh. And I have strong evidence that toddlers do not trade stocks on-line.

    B)This is the company that gave Europe the two-stroke engine that was later used in the Trabant and the Wartburg; the environmental damage that AUDI has caused since its founding in 1909 would make their “Green Police” resign.

    C)It was meant as a JOKE!! (But look at all the free publicity it is getting! PRICELESS!!)

  • Yeah, I cringed when I saw this. In addition to being useless greenwashing, this ad is also red meat for the global-warming deniers, who are having a field day with this one. “See? Al Gore wants to force you not to use styrofoam cups!!!”

    If we really wanted to be green, we would convert the bulk of our personal cars to all electric and (of course) replace as many trips as possible with biking, metro, or walking.

  • Well, you know, when you hate liberty and freedom and markets and cars then you’re a “greenie” communist Obama lover.

    Keep the government out of my medicare, social security, highway construction loans, auto company bailouts, auto and home loans! The market is taking care of these things fine by itself without the government getting in there with their gestapo police tactics.

  • LAMosca

    Well, we’re not too far off when saying that we’ll start seeing things/events with “green” and “2.0” that greenwash/whitewash concrete ideas and plans for making cities more livable.

    Didn’t we have an “L.A 2.0” (with GOOD magazine) event a few months ago that did that exact same thing?

  • Will Campbell

    You can call this ad a step up over Audi’s previous TV spot for this same model, I’ll call it hypocritical.

  • ML

    um…. if this car has reduced PM 2.5 emissions, its a big step forward. regardless of a silly commercial. maybe the scrubbing technology they are using could also be used on commercial vehicles?

    PM 2.5 kills people. silly commercials do not. end of story.

  • Erik G.

    Since when is Cheap Trick a “Super Cover-Band”? Apart from Magical Mystery Tour and Don’t Be Cruel, what covers have they recorded?

    And I figured out that the animal being used at the roadblock is an Ant Eater.

  • If you go to the Green Police page at You Tube, there’s a feature on the anteater from his local news.

    Look, I get that it’s supposed to be funny, and I did laugh at some of it; but they’re message that their car is some super green machine, especially when considered with their previous ads, is just laughable. Sure, they’re better than an H3, but they’re hardly some sort of magic car that runs on puppy dog tails and good intentions.

    As for Cheap Trick, that was a cheap shot on my part, but honestly, I can’t think of anything else they ever wrote.

  • Obviously the ad was meant to be ironic – I mean, how much pollutants would be spewed at an “eco checkpoint”? But the point is that the Audi gets more miles to the gallon, is more fun to drive (for those who care about those things) than a randomly-accelerating Prius or a stodgy Civic Hybrid, and at least pacifies the eco-freaks in our lives who nag and whine, and represented to the extreme by the Green Police. As usual, Damien doesn’t get it on commercials – they aren’t targeted to him, they’re targeted at the same people who were impressed when that Bud Light house was made out of “recycled” (but actually real) bottles.

    And as far as the global warming deniers, remember that a ballot measure to repeal AB 32 is going to be on the ballot in November – there is enough money from the usual suspects to gather enough petitions. And quite honestly, I would sign it (as I do virtually all petitions when presented – it’s three minutes to help someone out, and costs me nothing). With the recent cold spell, and the allegedly incriminating email controversy, there are serious doubts about the reality of global climate change. Al Gore’s movie doesn’t help when it mentions that temperatures are getting hotter, or colder – it’s irrelevant, since GCC increases VOLATILITY, much more damaging than net temperature increase, which unfortunately only stock market traders and gamblers seem to understand. Yes, Rush Limbaugh loved the ad because it “exposed” the agenda of the “watermelons”. But even Gavin Newsom Twittered that the “compost police” hit too close to home.

    Drew, honestly, I don’t think the average American cares about being green. They might do a few green things, like sorting trash, to feel good, but they are still going to drive to work every day, fly in airplanes, and take long showers. Therefore, I’m inclined to let the natural scarcity of resources do its thing.

  • “[H]onestly, I don’t think the average American cares about being green”

    I just saw a presentation which makes the point that this is often about framing. Although not everyone identifies with the label “environmentalist”, everybody wants to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and have an economy that can be sustained over time. If Americans aren’t environmentalists, it’s mainly because they haven’t made the connections between their well being and the well being of the environment yet.

  • Personally I thought the ad was funny. And the reality is people want vehicles that provide a certain level of horsepower, and until we get an affordable electric sports car on the assembly line of a major auto company, clean diesels will have to do.

    Isn’t the real objection here that the vehicle won Green Car of the Year???

    And expecting an auto company to highlight public transit, cycling or walking? C’mon guys. That’s like expect Mickey D’s to do an ad about their new healthy choice menu, while mentioning Subway.

  • Oh man, Streetblog has completely jumped the shark…

    1. Do we really expect a car company to promote bicycle riding? (Seriously Damien N?)
    2. The “green wash” part of the ad is supposed to be ironic… it’s poking fun at the people who buy hybrid cars (and do other “green” things) for image. I thought that was plenty obvious in the tone of the ad.
    3. Audi A3 TDI is probably a lot better choice of car when it comes to the environment than what most Americans buy… Are you disputing that point?
    4. Super Bowl ads aim to entertain as much as to sell. After reading this blog entry, I’m expecting Streetblog to write about how consumption of beer is harmful to the environment because it does not promote bicycle riding…
    5. And to the proletariat commenters… you can buy the identical VW Golf TDI starting at just over $20k if the Audi name is too bourgeois for you… sheesh!

    This has been the most off-point and ill-informed post on Streetblog

  • I’m going to have to agree with bzcat. Not everything is an attack on cyclists and pedestrians.

    It’s a humorous ad which tries to sell by entertaining people.

    I think the comparison with mcdonalds mentioning subway when talking about their healthy menu is a good one.

    Audi is a car company, they sell cars. Here, they’re trying to sell a more environmentally friendly car. Why is this a problem?

    Streetsblog should focus on real issues, and not be hypersensitive about a freaking super bowl commercial. Bitching about something like this brings the whole site down a notch, because it makes the reader question of the other posts are also being hypersensetive.

  • I don’t mind criticizing Audi. Look, we all agree it’s a funny ad and had a laugh at it. On the other hand, equating environmentalism with buying a slightly less polluting car is a dangerous tendency and one of the main things I think Streetsblog tries to challenge.

    Of course, if you’re going to buy a car, buy the cleanest car you can. That reduces real impacts on people. I expect Audi to pitch it’s stuff, and I expect Damien Newton to poke holes in their “green” image when they do. Everybody has his/her role to play :)

    People are getting athsma and dying prematurely out there because of air pollution and traffic impacts, which, by the way, is a HUGE environmental justice issue. So this is funny and serious at the same time.

  • For Lord’s sake. Of course it was a joke. I thought that a lot of my post was pretty obviously made in a lightly mocking tone and not going for the jugular or just being mean spirited. You want mean spirited? I could point out that a German car company should be really careful using terms like the “Green Police.”


  • I actually found this ad quite funny. don’t know what all the fuss is about car service

  • Anonymous

    Service is hard. BMW are OK. They have plenty of great cars for sale and are not quite as expensive to fix

  • Alex Rose

    Likewise – and Audi seem to have made great strides in increasing their cars’ efficiency. car service.


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