By on September 9, 2010

To hype its forthcoming Leaf electric car, Nissan has reached for the most manipulative imagery in the green marketing playbook: the Polar Bear. They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and because their icy habitat is being destroyed by regular cars, they will hug you if you buy an EV. Meanwhile, the causes, trajectory, and impacts of global climate change (not to mention its possible solutions) remain extremely abstract and far-away when compared to the political and economic ramifications of global oil undersupply. Too bad market failures and geopolitical instability aren’t as emotionally manipulative as those fuzzy bear guys…

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31 Comments on “Because Polars Bears Are Cuter Than Market Failure…...”

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    If the Leaf was about leap-frogging the Prius, it just did it in terms of green-washing. Truly amazing.

  • avatar

    Yes, they will hug you. With their claws… and their jaws…

  • avatar

    I liked it.

  • avatar

    Are American public schools really this bad? To think polar bears survive in ice?
    Next thing you know the infantile Americans will be manipulated by TV images of a lone polar bear floating on a small piece of ice…OH! Wait!!….

  • avatar

    I like the Leaf, but not the ad.

  • avatar

    Good lord.

  • avatar

    Posturing polar bears play patronizingly on our partisan passions.

    I am firmly left of center and this ad made me squirm.

  • avatar

    nissan might have just jumped the shark. I might never buy one of their products for this stupid commerical. the leaf is going to save the polar bear?

  • avatar

    I’ll agree that it’s a bit insipid, but really, how much more disingenuous is it then crooning “Like a Rock” about what amounted to the New Family Truckster?
    It’s marketing and, unless you’re in the UK where there’s some recourse vis a vis “truth in advertising” you may as well just let it go.

  • avatar

    Ad is dopey…polar bears are cute…to look at…but they would rip you apart faster than we will rip this ad apart.  However, I can understand the connection they are making, since ice sheets are shrinking faster than imagined and most non-industry sponsored scientists believe that manmade emissions are responsible for the melting.  But, since electricity generation is mostly fueled by burning coal, and coal typically emits double the C02 of natural gas, this is greenwashing, pure and simple.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, the “proof” that the polar ice is melting at an abnormal rate has turned out to be flawed, too. And it’s not just “industry-sponsored” scientists who are skeptical of the claims of manmade global warming.

    • 0 avatar

      The polar bears just used Coca-Cola to freeze everything back together.

    • 0 avatar

      @ geeber:
      Since you claim that the ice up north isn’t melting as fast as the locals in Northern Canada are seeing and reporting, perhaps you could organize a lecture tour of The NWT, Yukon and Nunavut. That way, you will be able to explain to them that what they are experiencing is just a figment of their imagination. That would help a lot.

    • 0 avatar

      @geeber…. WMBA is right, it really is happening.

  • avatar

    The NEW GM CEO Dan Akerson says GM will go into an “attack Mentality”!    
    The Nissan Leaf commercial needs an attack rather than a retreat….   
    How hard would it be for GM to quickly generate the following commercial?

    First talk about the virtues of the Volt.   
    Stress the environmentally friendly capability while having no “range anxiety.” ™ Question what happens when caught in traffic on a hot day.
    Then at the end of the commercial say “Protect your life style, protect the environment, Volt gets it done!”
    Then the camera breaks to a jammed freeway with a Nissan Leaf on the side of the road with a polar bear waving down a flatbed tow truck.   At the same time a Volt pulls over and picks up the polar bear and drives away with the flatbed tow truck behind it.    

    If it is truly the NEW GM, they had better exploit every opportunity with the speed of light.  

    • 0 avatar

      Throw in $20k, and you’ve almost convinced me to buy a Volt.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m no Volt fanboy, just some Leaf versus Volt drama could be so much fun!
      Initially the production volumes for this vehicle segment will be low, however the media exposure will be beyond anything the highest volume cars of the major auto manufacturers could ever dream of developing.

      Perception = reality… and this will carry over into the brand. 
       So my point is that GM should take advantage of this opportunity to be a media darling.  It’s theirs to lose. 

      Back to the fun.. 
      I will be waiting for that website  “My-Leaf-Ran-Out-of-Power” [dot] com.
      Welcome to our forum, please post related stories on how you: 
      * Stole electricity
      * Begged for an extension cord
      * Pushed it how far? 
      * You left it where?
      * You had to sleep at work?
      * Challenged parking tickets
      * Forgot to charge it and took a sick day

  • avatar

    @golden husky: Coal might emit twice as much as natural gas but thats not what the majority of cars run on today.
    You are right that most electricity is generated by coal but for the US its still only 45%. Natural gas is next at 23% and nuclear which emits virtually zero CO2 is third at 20%. If do a quick guesstimate with the numbers (like I did) you find that currently, using electricity for cars instead of liquid petroleum (which is somewhere between coal and CNG for CO2 emissions) is at worst about even. Given the push for renewables and the general awakening that it is possible to not use coal, it’ll only get better (I hope).
    Sure an actual polar bear would rip you apart but this is a fictional one that was able to make a judgement about the potential benefits of an electric car and decided to give the guy a hug. A bit too cute for me but no less realistic than 20 cheerleaders chasing me down because I picked up some axe body spray.

  • avatar

    If LEAF helps us take one small step forward with reducing oil consumption, and thereby doing less business with unsavory people by an inkling, I’ll call it a win.  And by unsavory people, I mean oil companies, the Middle East and Chavez.
    If silly ads are the price to pay for this, I’ll call it a bargain.

  • avatar

    There is nothing to suggest polar bears are dying off so saving them shouldn’t be a priority. Buy a leaf if you want to pay 500 a month for electricity. If your bill isn’t that high now it will be once the grid starts to feed these things. And Barry already promised to raise our electric rates sky high to discourage lighting our homes.
    Quinton Tarentino would have had the polar bear rip his head off and play basketball with it.

  • avatar

    All  I can say is WOW.  I thought this site was “The Truth About Cars”, not “The Truth About Global Warming and/or Peak Oil”.  I get the fact that the ad is about the Leaf, but all this does is continue yesteday’s pontification around peak oil and such.  If I want to discuss those issues, I’ll go to the Oildrum, RealClimate, Watts Up With That, and other sites where the local idiots throw barbs at eachother.  I come here to discuss cars.  PERIOD!!

    /rant off ……….

    • 0 avatar

      I feel for ya, but how do you talk about EV cars without delving into the politics behind them?  It would be like talking about Trabants without mentioning communism, or Hummers without mentioning Iraq.
      Granted, the global warming angle is a bit of an editorial troll, but this is part of what makes TTAC more interesting than Consumer Reports.

  • avatar

    Wow…some of those scene look an awful lot like downtown Ottawa.

  • avatar

    I always knew that liberals were quite infantile and regressed.  The folks at Nissan understand too, recognizing that these types see the arctic bear as they would a teddy bear–something to hug at night after they become frightened, waking from dreams of a crazed Dick Cheney chasing them down the street with a shotgun.
    In my book, and if I were making ads, the bear would have eaten the liberal.  But I’m a reality kind of guy.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    The Truth About Marketing? Okay, then. Here goes.

    For the target audience this ad is aimed at, it’s solid work. Pushes all the right buttons. Environmentalists, eco-awares, Wholefooders, and the carbon-impact-sensitives are posting this to their Facebook statuses faster than TTAC petrolheads can hate on the commercial here in our little corner of the interweb.

    The on-the-fence crowd — not quite sure what to make of the electrification of the automobile — will also be struck by this spot. It’s simple. It’s clear. It does not go into technicalities or even address things like “range anxiety.” It simply makes people aware that such a thing exists, here and now, and that in and of itself will generate interest and brand goodwill, adoption notwithstanding. And the use of topical and resonent imagery presents this awareness as not only a good thing, but an important one.

    What auto enthusiasts must remember (whether hobbyists or professionals working in the industry) is the average consumer knows far less than you might think about cars, like how they work, how a vehicle comes to be, what they’re designed to do, and even, where they come from.

    So yes, the commercial leaves a lot — like everything — of substance out. It doesn’t do the math to make the purchase logical (as in, how a Leaf, over the course of X number of years, will be a more economically or environmentally sound purchase than a typical compact ICE car). It doesn’t explain how Leaf works. How long it takes to charge. Or how far it’ll go. It doesn’t touch on how many charging cycles the batteries will endure. Or if an electric car — based on competing theories of Peak Oil and Corporate Energy oil price manipulation — is even a necessary thing.

    Because these things, to a non-petrolhead, do not really exist. These drivers spend so little time thinking about the details behind the automobile business, that issues that TTAC readers consider the very basics of the industry are obscure and useless facts to the non-Inside Baseball crowd.

    They simply don’t care. And when we start banging on about all the issues involved in the case of the Leaf, their eyes glaze over and they look at us like we’re Cliff Claven.

    So, in conclusion to this Truth About Marketing rant, this is a solid piece of work from Chiat. 

  • avatar

    “Nissan’s Strangely Moving Leaf Ad That May Make You Vomit” Rarely do I make it over to the Huffington Post. But I did today. And that is the headline for their story about Nissan’s polar bear ad. What a great headline!
    (Okay, I’m kidding. Their real headline suggests that the ad may make you cry. Not vomit. But they really meant vomit, I’m sure.)

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