Month 2, Day 9: A Luxury Sedan Letter

I understand nothing about professional football. As far as I can figure out, it is, in the words of Ashleigh Brilliant, “Violence punctuated by committee meetings.” So I was only peripherally aware that there was a major cultural event this past weekend featuring very large men hurling spheroids about a grassy field while wearing brightly colored costumes and colorful helmets. I gather that one of the commercial organizations involved in the activity “won,” while the other “lost.”

And yet, I find myself involved in the aftermath of the SuperBowl. Daily Kos diarist A Siegel noted an advertisement from Audi which he described as “The Most Environmentally Unfriendly Super Bowl Ad” in a lengthy post the other day. I read it because I read all of his work…and it provided me with the hook for today’s letter, which goes both to Audi of America and to their advertising agency, Venables Bell and Partners.

Dear Audi of America — I write to protest your recently aired advertisement, the “Green Police” Superbowl commercial. While I have no doubt your advertising agency meant the TV spot to be a tongue-in-cheek approach to environmental awareness and its increasing importance in society, the effect of the ad was to trivialize ecological concerns (on the one hand), and to stigmatize those who are trying to effect meaningful change in world environmental policy (on the other).

Your ad shows “green police” arresting and brutalizing people who are using plastic bags, failing to compost their food refuse, burning incandescent bulbs, and luxuriating in hot tubs — responding with grossly inappropriate force to real and imagined environmentally unfriendly actions. Thus the advertisement promulgates a view of ‘going green’ that suggests a totalitarian police state — not a positive and sustainable future.

It is a bizarre irony that ‘green police’ is a term for The Orpo, or Ordnungspolizei, the uniformed regular German police force in Nazi Germany, notably between 1936 and 1945. Owing to their green uniforms, they were also referred to as Grüne Polizei (green police). And, in a chapter of history that senior Audi personnel would probably rather not remember too vividly, the “Green Police” were well and thoroughly implicated in Hitler’s genocide, providing manpower for deportations, ghetto-clearings, and massacres.

It’s probably true that most Americans (especially those who are fixated on competitive football) have little sense of history. But that’s no excuse for evoking some of Hitler’s foot soldiers in a totally misleading way. Ordinary citizens and politicians with an interest in environmental protection might find it offensive to be equated with Nazi lackeys, don’t you think?

Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have already saturated the brains of American conservatives with phrases like “eco-Nazi.” The last thing we need is a well-respected auto manufacturer to fall into their camp; judging by the immediate reaction of conservative commentators, that’s exactly where you’ve landed.

Pull the ad immediately. It’s misleading, offensive, and as far from funny as you can get.

Yours sincerely,

Warren Senders

Audi contact info.

Venables Bell & Partners
201 Post St., Ste. 200
San Francisco, CA 94108
United States
Phone: 415-288-3300
Fax: 415-421-3683

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