The Super Bowl gets almost as much attention for its commercials (and halftime show) as it does for the football game, which is often boring and over-rated. Yesterday’s game was great, and the commercials were pretty weak. Even the rock stars “The Who” (who dat?) came up short.
But one ad really got my attention-the Audi spot about green-shirted and green shorts-wearing police chasing down users of plastic bags, foam cups and plastic bottles. I have been writing about the plastics industry for 25 years, and I thought the ad was funny. Its over-the-top humor wasn’t preachy at all, just good fun in my view. The cops even looked like real German cops in their green uniforms. And it is an ad for a German car. In Germany, there’s a real intensity about green mindedness that doesn’t exist here. Alarms practically go off if you put a paper wrapper in the wrong bin at a McDonalds in Düsseldorf. I figure the ad was probably dreamed up in Germany, and was really taking a good-natured shot at the Green Police.
But the American Chemistry Council, the trade group for the big resin companies, was unhappy. A hastily erected Web site states: “Audi’s Green Police campaign goes to the extreme to make a compelling point: We all can make choices every day to help the environment — in the cars we drive, the products we buy and the way we use them. And while an anteater sniffing out an environmental faux pas is funny, the tongue-in-cheek ads also demonstrate the shortcomings of using conventional wisdom to make choices regarding the environment - particularly when it comes to plastics.”
The Web site goes on to outline that plastic bags CAN be recycled, foam cups use less energy than paper versions, and plastic bottles are shatterproof and handy. Many of these points have been made on this blog over the years. And, of course, a lot of high-performance plastics lighten the load in the Audi. I’ve also noted that just because something can be recycled doesn’t mean that it is recycled in meaningful quantities, or that it is the best environmental choice.
The mainstream media didn’t know what to think of the ad. Was Audi making fun of the environmental movement! Or the plastics industry! Probably the tree huggers and the spin doctors both took this ad a little too seriously.