Friday, September 25, 2009

Shame on You, BMW

Watch the recent BMW commercial above. Maybe you have seen it already - it ran during nearly every break during the US Open two weeks ago.

"Americans are always finding ways to be more responsible," the actor begins, gazing longingly at the energy efficient compact fluorescent (CLF) light bulb in his hand. He continues, "And so is BMW," as the ceiling comes alive and hundreds of bulbs illuminate to reveal the company's new line of fuel efficient automobiles (that is, if you consider 28 mpg highway to be efficient).

The clip on the television screen could not have been more incongruous with the message of the commercial. My roommate Hadley and I couldn't help but laugh at the hypocrisy each time it aired. If BMW truly practiced what it preached, it would have shot this commercial in the dimly lit studio it started out with.

With this in mind, I have a few simple questions for the folks at BMW...
  1. How are you "finding ways to be more responsible" by creating the brightest commercial in the history of bright commercials?
  2. On the topic of your "commitment to lowering emissions," does that include increasing the energy consumption of the studio you used to promote your product?
  3. Did no one in the marketing department pick up on this? Really? I mean, come on...
While questions one and two are straightforward and identify the contradictory messages of the commercial, question three is considerably more complex. The unfortunate reality is, the answer to question three is probably a "yes," but BMW expects people to buy their cars regardless. Maybe they thought no one would pick up on it (although it's kind of hard not to). The idea to take away from this is we shouldn't be letting companies get away with things like this. Does anyone else feel a little taken advantage of? It's insulting to be presented with garbage and expected to consume it. It's also more complicated in this situation because the product itself is quite luxurious, while the way it is marketed is more dubious...

This scenario relates back to something I have referred to in several previous posts: the power we have as consumers to dictate the direction of the market. I know very few (if any) of you were planning to skip down to your local BMW dealerships this weekend and pick up a new ride, but this same idea can be extrapolated across all product lines. Each time we purchase something, we endorse the way it was manufactured (and in this case, marketed). Be on the lookout for products with misleading environmental claims, an advertising strategy known as "greenwashing." The website allows concerned consumers to post and review advertisements. Commercials are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 (one being authentic and five being bogus) based on each company's honest disclosure of its environmental responsibility. Cast your vote on the BMW commercial here.

If we work together we can show companies they can't just talk the talk - they have to walk the walk too. If they are going to say they are committed to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, they have to mean it, and it is our job to hold them accountable.

1 comment:

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