Auto ads are downright unnatural

Published in The Sault Star Nov. 23, 2022

Some of the people who make car and truck commercials should get out more. Their concept of nature is downright unnatural.

One of the central themes of their auto ads is that we should buy a new car or truck so we can experience nature.

Big, bad and not-too-damned-beautiful wolf

Or, as one ad puts it, “head into the big, wild, raging, so-damned-beautiful-it-hurts world.”

Venturing into nature is the only way to find out what we’re made of, the ad insists.

Then the ad shows someone parachuting into a canyon. Simply driving your jeep into a canyon to see what it’s made of would lower the resale value, I guess.

And really, must it be a canyon? Wouldn’t parachuting off something like the CN Tower test your mettle just as well?

Regardless, I’d say buying a new vehicle will tell you as much about your credit score as about yourself.

Some of these ad-makers glorifying nature don’t really know much about it. Their version of the wild world seems to have been developed by watching Disney or Pixar films.

For example, one ad features a little boy in a car seat, waving a wolf toy and offering up his best wolf howl.

His parents indulgently drive to a clearing in the woods, where a wolf obligingly appears and howls back at the boy, to the youngster’s delight.

Now, I do a lot of hiking through the bush and sometimes see wolf tracks or wolf poop. But I’ve seen wolves only at a great distance. Wolves fear humans, despite what fairy tales and advertisements might suggest.

I imagine a wolf might trot up to a vehicle if it had a deer carcass draped over it, but not to entertain a preschooler.

Besides, while the family vehicle in the ad is stopped on a grassy clearing, the wolf ostensibly just a few feet away is standing on a huge expanse of packed snow. That gap in terrain is as wide as the gap in my credulity.

In another ad a woman is driving . . . sorry, a woman is bouncing behind the wheel as she sings and waves her arms and looks everywhere but at the road ahead. For all I know she’s also buying Christmas gifts online; drivers can do stuff like that in modern vehicles.

Her alarm beeps and the automatic braking system activates, saving her from colliding with a moose. The beast then walks alongside the vehicle and peers in benevolently at, you guessed it, a child in the back seat.

I’d like to see an ABS pull off that emergency stop if a car barreling down the Mile Hill encountered an oversized ungulate that meandered up from the flats. I’d like to see it because vehicles hit moose there all too often, sometimes with fatal consequences.

The only time I almost hit a moose, one foggy night on a Goulais back road, the so-damned-beautiful beast, apparently affronted, stomped threateningly toward my car’s hood, forcing me to back up for about 50 metres before it took to the bush.

That moose displayed absolutely no curiosity about the kids in my vehicle. Like other wild animals, moose do not audition for social media videos.

I’m all in favour of people driving to places where they can explore nature. But in truth, the only nature most people targeted by those ads are likely to encounter is human nature at its worst. They’re doomed to find out what they’re made of on the freeway, making sudden stops and dodging stunt drivers.

Even here in the north, most people spend about half of their driving time leaving nature behind. Sure, I take my truck to some wild places, but its most frequent destination is the hockey arena, where I find out what I’m made of by failing to keep as many pucks out of nets as I once could.

And vehicles are not nature’s friend. U.S. agencies blame cars and trucks for nearly 75 per cent of carbon monoxide pollution and 27 per cent of greenhouse emissions.

As well, many of the features that make modern vehicles so-damned-expensive-it-hurts are there expressly to overcome nature: the aforementioned ABS, various traction and four-wheel low features, climate-controlled cabs, heated seats and mirrors, stereo systems to drown out any natural noise that dares penetrate the sound-insulted cabins. 

Some truck and ATV ads acknowledge that vehicles and nature are not always best buddies. 

In those ads, rugged rigs, macho even with the most feminine of ecstatically grinning drivers, churn up desert-like terrain, spitting out endangered plants behind them, or spew stones as they bounce along through fields, scattering bunnies and badgers before them.

In one ad, a truck churns up huge muddy ruts along a bucolic bush road. Then a timely rain shower cleans it up much better than a couple of trips though the carwash could. It’ll look real purty parked in the driveway in Mississauga.

In essence, ad-makers offer up two views of nature for potential purchasers of vehicles. You can anthropomorphize it. Or you can spin your chunky tires though it. 

Neither one revs up my engine.

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