Audi's "Green Police" Ad Offends...Who, Exactly?

The Super Bowl ad generating perhaps the most buzz -- and confusion -- today is Audi's "Green Police" spot, which you can watch at left.

In it, people who make environmentally-unfriendly decisions, such as opting for a plastic bag or bottle, turning up their hot tub or throwing away a battery, are arrested by the "Green Police" as a customized version of Cheap Trick's "The Dream Police" (with "Dream" changed to "Green") plays in the background.

"You picked the wrong day to mess with the ecosystem, plastic boy," one member of the Green Police tells an offender.

What's confusing about the spot is it seems to be criticizing the environmental movement for overzealousness even as it ultimately pushes a car, the A3 TDI "clean diesel," designed to appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers.

Environmentalists weren't sure whether to celebrate or denigrate the spot. Grist magazine's David Roberts writes that at first blush it seemed like an appeal "to angry white men with the same old stereotype of environmentalists as meddling do-gooders obsessed with picayune behavioral sins."

"The more I've thought about it, though, the more [that] interpretation just doesn't quite fit," he goes on to say. "The thrill at the end, when they guy gets to accelerate away from the crowd, turns on satisfying the green police -- not rejecting or circumventing them, but satisfying their strict standards. The authority of the green police is taken for granted, never questioned. If you're looking to appeal to mooks who think the green police are full of it and have no authority, moral or otherwise, why would you make a commercial like that?"

Conservatives also seem to be split: While Newsbusters writes, seemingly approvingly, of the spot's "futurist vision of environmentalism running amok," Bob Ellis called it an "downright offensive" and "presented with too much seriousness to be taken any other way than as approval of such Gestapo tactics."

On its Web site, Audi says the Green Police are "caricatures of today's 'green movement.'" But it also seems to endorse the faux-force, writing they are "a humorous group of individuals that have joined forces in an effort to collectively help guide consumers to make the right decision when it comes to the environment."

In one sense, at least, the spot was effective: It was the only car ad to crack the top ten in USA Today's Ad Meter of most popular Super Bowl spots.

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