Canadian Plastics

Super Bowl commercial prompts the right response

A man asks for a plastic bag at the supermarket checkout. Next thing you know, his head's slammed against the counter, and the Green Police are cuffing him. "You picked the wrong day to mess with the ...

April 1, 2010   Canadian Plastics



A man asks for a plastic bag at the supermarket checkout. Next thing you know, his head’s slammed against the counter, and the Green Police are cuffing him. “You picked the wrong day to mess with the ecosystem, plastic boy,” sneers a green-clad enviro-cop as the perp is led away.

If you watched the Super Bowl in February, you more than likely saw this commercial for Audi. (If you didn’t, you can see it on YouTube, where it quickly became a must-see sensation.) It ends with a roadblock on a backed-up interstate, with the Green Police prowling the lines of vehicles to check they’re in environmental compliance. “You’re good to go,” they tell the driver of an Audi A3 TDI, and he meekly pulls out of the stalled traffic and moves off. Tagline: “Green has never felt so right.”

Costing tens of thousands of dollars per second of airtime, Super Bowl commercials aren’t just thrown together– indeed, most are probably as exquisitely planned as the D-Day invasion. Safe to say, then, that if plastics were singled out, it’s because the good folks at Audi knew there was no better way to keep viewers glued to their HDTVs than by hammering on this particular hot button.

I step lightly over the obvious hypocrisy at the ad’s centre–to wit, wouldn’t the weight savings afforded by plastics components be a big reason the Audi A3 TDI is environmentally friendly enough to pass muster with the Green Police in the first place?–and focus instead on what strikes me as something more important: the quick response by members of various plastics industry organizations.

A few days after the commercial aired, for example, Barry Eisenberg, director of communications and marketing with the Society of the Plastics Industry, was already exposing this gaping contradiction on his blog. The American Chemistry Council went him one better. Alerted in advance about the ad, the ACC launched a pre-emptive counterattack through a website ( www.greenpoliceconfused.com) that was up and running before Super Bowl Sunday.

As with Eisenberg’s blog, the ACC hit the right balance of playfulness and seriousness. They didn’t deny the ad was funny, but they didn’t take the carmaker’s hypocrisy lying down, either.

These two responses are hardly going to stem the rise of anti-plastics sentiment of course, and I’ll bet they weren’t even noticed by anyone outside the plastics world. But they do matter, and here’s why: At the risk of reading too much into one car commercial, we seem to approaching the point at which being against plastics morphs from narrow radical-chic into mainstream hip. If that happens, our industry is in big trouble.

The best way to respond, it seems to me, is to be hip right back at ’em. Rather than fly off the handle–as I’ve seen members of the anti-plastics brigade do during TV debates against members of the ACC–let’s acknowledge the humour (where it exists) in the attacks against our industry, and then hit back hard, but with a twinkle in our eye.

Perhaps we could call it being generously angry.

So if the SPI and ACC were preaching to the choir on this one, they at least showed us an irreverent style of sermon that, taken to the general public, stands a fair chance of winning some converts.

Mark Stephen mstephen@canplastics.com


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