Friday, June 10, 2011

Nissan Asks, What if Everything Ran on Gas?

The marketing team at Nissan is at it again, and this time they've struck gold.

I saw this commercial for the first time last night, and I have seen it everywhere since (including the preview advertisement for another Youtube video of the ad itself. So meta, right?). The concept is incredible, so much so that I actually uttered the word "brilliant" when the commercial ended. After watching it several times through, I realize its message is different from the one I initially took away from it but that doesn't detract from the creativity of the clip nor the intended message itself.

When I first watched it, I thought what the heck could this be for? A bunch of appliances running on two-stroke engines and spewing (noticeable) exhaust into the surrounding air? I was captivated by it because it visually represented an important connection -- that each of these technological amenities uses energy. It would be more obvious if we lived in a world where everything ran on gas, but when the plants spewing the same pollutants into the atmosphere are located in someone else's backyard this connection is more difficult to draw. I like this commercial for the same reason I like the wall decal below, from Hu2 Design. Both are innovative ways to remind people of their environmental impacts.

The subtle aspects of the commercial really make it shine. It is meant to make you feel bored and uncomfortable. Watching someone go through their daily routine really gets you going, doesn't it? Waking up at 6:20? Yuck. And no one likes the dentist, especially if they try to put a sawzall in your mouth. After all, thinking about gasoline should unnerve you and to them I say job well done.

My "Aha" moment came when we finally arrive at our tragic hero filling his Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric car (which means it can run on gas or electricity, or both), at the pump. Clever, I thought, to use gas-powered electric appliances to make the case for electrifying a typically gas-powered vehicle. But, of course, the magicians at Nissan weren't done yet. They took the commercial as an opportunity to make a light jab at their chief competitor, clearly taking pride in the fact that their car doesn't rely on the Volt's gas-dependent safety net. The only problem I have with their message is that the electricity they purport to be vastly better than gasoline isn't emissions-free either. Roughly two-thirds of the electricity produced in this country is done so using dirty sources such as coal or natural gas. Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) nor Chevy Volts will be true zero-emissions vehicles until we grow the percentage of renewables in our national energy portfolio. To the Volt's defense, there clearly aren't charging stations yet on the average street like the one shown beside the Leaf in this commercial. Because of this the Chevy hybrid model could be a more than acceptable stepping stone to a complete EV future, as long as its electric refueling capacity isn't ignored in practice in favor of the more familiar gasoline routine.

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