Nissan LEAF Ad Puts Global Warming Front and Center (Video)


It's rare that an advertisement gets deemed controversial because it plays into a cliche, but that's exactly what has happened with Nissan's new TV ad for it's all-electric LEAF: The spot has sent a ripple through blogosphere by featuring the (seemingly) age-old story about how polar bears are losing their habitat to a melting Arctic as a result of climate change. Many -- including Climate Progress, the Huffington Post, and GOOD -- have effusively lauded the ad. Watch it after the jump:

Okay, the ad certainly didn't make me cry, as the Huffington Post headline asserted that it might. If anything, the sentiment was laid on a little thick: Buy a LEAF, and polar bears will make their way from the Arctic to hug you out of gratitude for having done your part to rescue their home, along with the planet, from global warming. Not exactly subtle.

That said, I still do think it's a good ad -- it's certainly well-produced, and until the over-the-top bit at the end, it's indeed affecting. It reminded me that we haven't had a mainstream pop-culture take on global warming in the US for a while, and here it is, front and center. And in an apolitical and pro-consumer way, nonetheless. But the ad's approach has nonetheless lead to fears that such marketing will further widen the divide between those who take climate change seriously and those who don't.

Salon's Andrew Leonard writes:

It's one or the other -- there's no middle ground with this ad. I'm not sure I've ever seen a major consumer product roll-out that so unabashedly takes such a clear side in the blue state/red state culture wars. The Nissan Leaf is aimed directly at Berkeley environmentalists who believe emissions of greenhouse gases are threatening to overheat the planet. Oklahoman Republican senators who think the whole climate change thing is just a scam? You are not in the demo.
And sure enough, right-wing blogs have taken to battering the ad. But I still have to disagree with Leonard -- the ad itself is pretty benign, and we have to remember that most Americans have a more subdued opinion about climate change than green bloggers and right-wing pundits. There actually is a huge middle ground for most people -- some people will probably think the ad is cute, some will think it's heartwarming, some will think it's obnoxious, and some will think it's ridiculous.

But the takeaway for most will likely simply be reminded that yes, glaciers in the Arctic are melting, and yes, the polar bear is still a symbol for global warming, whether we're sick of it or not. It puts climate change back into the conversation in a decidedly non-political way. If anything, the noise caused by this ad is further evidence of how politicized climate change itself has become as an issue -- advertisers can't even use this familiar imagery (which depicts scientifically-backed phenomena) without having pundits worry that it will offend entire red states and divide the nation. The ad is a simple, parable-like depiction of the very real phenomenon of man-caused climate change -- and of course how buying Nissan's stuff will help you beat it.

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