By Berta Gaulke
On May 1, a full page ad appeared on the front cover of The Halifax edition of Metro featuring what looked, as I rushed by the ubiquitous green paper boxes, like ordinary coupons. In large white type on a blue background the coupons said typical things like “75% LESS” “HALF OFF” and “BUY ONE GET ONE.“
It was only on closer inspection that I noticed the small(er) print:
As if this isn’t bad enough, the ad continues on the inside cover. Under a picture of the car being advertised the ad reads:
“Unlike public transit, it has a media hub, top safety ratings, and room to actually exhale.”
A little misleading to be sure (according to the American Journal of Epidemiology public transit actually has about 1/20th the fatality rate of driving a car, regardless of the vehicle’s safety rating. But heck, what car ad doesn’t indulge in a little hyperbole to sell their product? Unfortunately, Subaru can’t seem to leave bad enough alone and the ad continues:
"While you’re sitting on public transit, just imagine your commute in a new Subaru Impreza. No weird smells, no overhearing awful music, and nobody asking you for spare change."+
Because what we need in Halifax is more cars clogging up our roads and spewing greenhouse gases.
If the ad had come out one month earlier I would have taken it for a bad April Fool’s day joke. Clearly, the marketing department at Subaru were going for something funny and “edgy,” but I fail to see the humour in perpetuating precisely the same myths corporations have always trotted out to oppose support for public transit.
I'm not sure what's worse: the depiction of public transit as dirty, dangerous and full of smelly panhandlers, or the implication that despite the threat posed by our continued over-use of fossil fuels, God forbid those of us who can afford it should ever have to do anything other than float through life on a cloud of fossil-fueled comfort while the riff-raff take the heat.
This is far from the first time a car company has crossed the bad taste line in its advertising, but putting the planet at risk to sell a few cars?
That’s pretty low.
To add insult to injury, Subaru has a reputation among progressive types of a certain age as a socially responsible company known for affordable, fuel-efficient all-wheel- drive cars perfect for going to places public transit doesn’t. Apparently Subaru no longer wants to be known as the vehicle environmentally conscious consumers drive to the mountains on weekends.
At a time when we need to be cutting carbon emissions any way we can, when we need to be getting more exercise (on average public transit users walk more than car commuters), when we need to be interacting with our fellow citizens rather than succumbing to social isolation, when we need to be integrating rather than marginalizing people at the lower end of the economic ladder, denigrating public transit and its users isn’t funny or edgy, it’s just stupid.
An inquiry sent via the Subaru Canada website resulted in this canned reply:
"Please be assured your comments are considered very seriously by Subaru Canada and have been forwarded to our Marketing Department. While we cannot confirm that the advertising will be changed as a direct result of your comments, we can confirm the sensitivities and concerns communicated by Canadian Consumers will be taken into consideration for future ads."
So nice to know they care about the "the sensitivities and concerns communicated by Canadian Consumers." Too bad they don't give a shit about the environment or human dignity.
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