The Green Police (Audi Super Bowl Commercial)

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | February 7, 2010 10:24 pm

So, reader reactions?


Comments (52)

  1. Pete

    Green, yet it mocks the enviromental movement. I don’t get it.

  2. I thought it was cute, but mostly because there was an anteater on a leash.

  3. Michael

    A long, reactionary way to go to promote a green automobile. Frankly I think Audi’s “we’re green” message is undercut by the snarky “we’ll police everything else” context.

  4. Sara

    Continues to associate “sensationalism” with environmentalism. The reaction in the group I was with was “Well, Congress did ban incandescent bulbs…not surprising that the green police arrested a man for not using CFLs.” Sigh… Not an ad to win skeptics over with, that’s for sure.

  5. RealTH

    Loved it. Someone finally captured the chruch of the greens opression. I might even buy one.Of course the humourless bishops I’ sure will get their knickers in a knot.

  6. Really?

    What a joke. This is another reason most of the world casts a suspicious eye at the environmental movement.

    By the way, Audi is the same company that owns Lamborghini. That’s right, the exotic Italian supercar manufacturer whose lineup of vehicles burns a gallon of fuel in fewer than 15 miles. Of their own models, fewer than half achieve better than 25mpg on the freeway.

    Hypocrisy in its highest form… a sports car maker pleading energy efficiency. But Hollywood loved it…

  7. CW

    It was a fail. It reinforced some negative stereotype of environmental issues (which is sort of fine, because Al Gore does it), but it seemed to me that it undercut its own award by mocking the importance of being “green” …just a little.

  8. MichaelM

    Sure, its funny but America’s fascism is funny. Its smiley face fascism. Not all totalitarian models are Orwellian, Stalinist or Maoist. Statism is a slow but inexorable growth in government power at the cost of individual freedom. Once the left gets ahold of the levers of state power they will them to force you to live your life according to their grand plan to remake the world.

    Woe to the politically incorrect or the enemy of the planet that doesn’t recycle.

    Fight fascism… kill the Federal Monster.

  9. Katharine

    Conservative humor is rather lame.

  10. It’s funny. Unless you don’t have a sense of humor about such things.

  11. Total fail. The presentation of the teaparty nightmare of environmental police is not a good way to sell cars. Imagine selling bandaids to leftists with a commercial dramatizing extrajudicial kidnapping and torture, played for laughs. Stupid and a waste of money.

  12. Mark Heidenreich

    In an age where the US is contemplating jail time for not using the government mandated health care, I think this is a terrible re-enforcement of coercive government. From Audi’s web site:
    “The Green Police 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. They’re not here to judge, merely to guide these decisions.”

    Let me remind you that men with guns and powers to arrest ARE there to judge and the only place they guide you is to prison. A car manufacturer from a nation with a very bad history of authoritarian government should be wiser. This isn’t quirky, funny or humorous.

  13. Michelle

    I hated this ad… things appear to be “funny” to some people because they are “extreme”, don’t realize that some of things in the ad are trying to be passed in US legislation under “Cap and Trade”… like forcing you by law to change your lightbulbs to more expensive ones… or will forcibly regulate the temperature of your home to the “green” temperature whether you’re hot or cold… whoever signed on this Audi ad was an idiot… just like the people who want your freedom of choice to be a governments decision. Looks like this ad doesn’t seem so extreme or so funny anymore…

  14. Cathy A

    Regarding CFL lights . . . you should switch to them because they save you money in the long run, not because they’re necessarily any greener. At $1 a pop, but using 1/4 of the electricity or less of similar incandescent bulbs, and lasting 2-3 times as long . . . yeah, it’s a fiscally sensible choice to make. They pay for themselves in the first few months.

    You don’t need green police to steer you in the right direction, you need someone good at math.

  15. Nathan

    I tend to agree with Michelle on this too. This was way too authoritarian a message for me. Very bad. One minute me and all my friends were laughing, the next the room was uncomfortably silent. I was outraged, initially, it really hit a lot of buttons with me. I sat back and tried to divorce those feelings, and still ended up coming away with a sour taste in my mouth and a lead weight in my stomach. If that really started happening here, I’d either be on my way to another country, or fighting the movement tooth and nail. I’m not against the idea of being environmentally responsible, but I am now fully against the Green Movement. Using the environment as a reason to bludgeon me into submission is just as wrong as using National Security. I do not like this, sir or madam, I do not.

    One more point. I find it interesting that I am more offended by this than I was by the Tebow anti-abortion add. I’m pro-choice, but that add was at least tasteful and respectful.

  16. Brandon

    it made me want to burn a tire.

  17. Dave

    It’s a commercial. The fact that you’re talking about it at all, for better or for worse, is the whole point.

  18. It would have worked anywhere else in the developed world, but most Americans take themselves too seriously to find the humor in it.

    Also, the tone was inconsistent.

  19. Ed

    Cathy #15…here is what happens if one of those things break…and no this is not a joke. This is actually what you’re supposed to do since CFLs are so toxic according to the EPA. Compare that to what you have to do with a regular bulb which is a 2 step process…sweep, and throw away. I think I’d rather spend an extra $0.25 a year on electrcity per bulb thank you very much.

    1. Before you clean-up: air out

    * Make sure all people and pets leave the room.
    * Don’t allow anyone to walk through the area where the break occurred.
    * Open a window.
    * Exit the room and stay out for a minimum of 15 minutes or more.
    * Shut off any centralized heating or cooling systems in the building.

    2. Clean-up steps: hard surfaces

    * Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up.
    * Carefully scoop up the broken glass and powder using stiff paper such as cardstock, cardboard or paperboard.
    * Place the broken pieces and powder into a glass jar with metal lid or in a plastic bag that can be sealed.
    * Use duct tape to pick up any leftover glass fragments and/or powder.
    * Wipe the area clean with disposable wet wipes. Place the used wipes into the glass jar or plastic bag.

    3. Clean-up steps: carpeting or rug

    * Carefully scoop up the broken glass and place the pieces into a glass jar with metal lid or in a plastic bag that can be sealed.
    * Use duct tape to pick up any leftover glass fragments and/or powder.
    * Once you have picked up as much material as possible, a vacuum may be used to collect the remaining debris.
    * Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and clean the canister).
    * Place the bag or vacuum debris in a plastic bag that can be sealed.

    4. Clean-up steps: clothing, bedding and other material

    * If the debris from the broken bulb is unable to be cleaned from the fabric, discard the clothing bedding or other material.
    * Do not wash the material. Mercury from the broken bulb can contaminate the washing machine and the water.
    * You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that did not come into direct contact with the broken bulb. This includes any clothing being worn at the time the bulb broke, as long as direct contact wasn’t made.
    * If shoes come into direct contact with powder from the bulb or broken glass, wipe them off with disposable wet wipes. Place the used wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

    5. Disposal of clean-up materials

    * Immediately place all materials used for clean up in an outdoor trash container. These can be disposed of with your normal trash pickup.
    * Wash your hands after disposing of all clean-up materials and containers.
    * The EPA advises, “Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.”

    6. Future cleaning of carpeting or rug:

    * Air out the room during and after vacuuming.
    * The next few times you vacuum, shut off any centralized heating or cooling systems and open a window before begining.
    * Keep the air system off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming.

  20. It’s European. The demographic for Superbowl ads is surely more Bud light. See uncertain Principles for *that*.

    It’s nicely satirical on the enforcement of European-style social responsibilities, but many people in the the US seem to have a strong reaction against anything that restricts their individual rights and freedoms, and this ad keys into that quite strongly.

  21. Wayne

    Yeah! I can’t wait to live in a place like that. A nice police state like WWII Germany, or Mao’s China, or maybe Stalins russia! You kids! playing with your funny ideas that have already failed to the extent that millions and millions of people were murdered by systems just like that. I guess I just am too old and able to remember and all that stuff to be able to lighten up and see the “humor” in a great commercial like that.

  22. Sean McCorkle

    I don’t like it for this reason: cars are not “green” no matter how you spin it, even if its running on biofuels.

    How often do americans tank up? Say, once a week or so? The energy capacity of diesel is about 40 megajoules/liter, a tank is what, 15 gallons, or 60 liters – thats 2400 megajoules/week consumed just to move an individual around, yet look at all the fuss in the commercial over a 100 watt incandescent light bulb – if that were to burn 3 hours a day for one week, it would use 100 x 3600 x 3 x 7 = 7 or 8 megajoules/week.

    Most of the energy consumed by the car is to move the 2000-4000 lb car – when the person weighs, what, one twentieth of that?

  23. What did you think about the google commercial on the superbowl last night?

  24. JJ

    CFLs not that much more efficient and more dangerous than traditional bulbs. Why not make LED light bulbs? They’re safer and use even less energy.

    That TDI is just as efficient as the Prius as well, achieving 50+ mpg on the highway. Hybrid technology is overrated, clean diesel is the way to go.

  25. Sara

    #18 Dave is Right.
    The point is to be talked about. On the other hand, the larger point is to have someone buy your car.
    Here’s the thing – Is your target market rich Greenies – than don’t use sledge hammer humor to sell it.
    If your real market (which is what I suspect), the non-greenies, the ones who resent the coming changes, then you have given them an open ticket to buy a “greenish” car that clearly smacks the greenies in the face.

    Ultimately I think it will be a great marketing tool to their non-green target. And they will probably get some of ‘on the fence’ people, who see why the thing is humorous – because they are worried about those things, but also realize that these changes need to be made.

    Its a commercial in a free speech world. Don’t get your panties in a wad. The more you talk the more money they make – because more people watch and more people start to think the funny is real. Like the people who get all of their news from John Stewart.

  26. Sorbet

    The ad was funny but would be intimidating for some and did not exactly give out positive vibes. It tries to portray a kind of “green police” state.

  27. Robert E

    They have LED bulbs; expensive, but they’ll practically never burn out.

  28. JJ

    I haven’t come across any, but I’d buy them.

  29. Wally L

    Showing a totalitarian “green police” state encourages the sale of cars? That ad absolutely failed in its objective. Try again (or not), Audi.

  30. John H.

    I think the ad is saying. with all of this environmental nonsense infringing on people’s freedoms, you can drive a cool car that is “evironmentally friendly” without making a preachy statement like Prius and Insight. I thought it was very funny. I think it targets a consumer like me who loathes the environmental movement, but wouldn’t mind owning a high quality, good looking car that gets good fuel economy.

  31. mike

    Loved this ad,
    It really showed Al Gore’s radical vision of America’s l future .

  32. Adam

    I went to their website and complained by email:

    It was a disturbing ad and left my entire family very uncomfortable.

  33. Another Adam

    I thought it was good satire. It makes the point you do not have to preach green or force people to be green. You just have to make products that are green that can compete with non green products. CFLs save money in the long run but are more expensive in the short term. That is not how consumers think. Composting is the biggest pain in the a#$ when you can just throw the orange peel away. Won’t it degrade in the land fill just as easy as it will my compost heap? I am not going to be put out to find a coffee chain that does not serve its coffee in Styrofoam. Audi is saying this car is green but is not an inconvenience or added expense. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen.

  34. Amanda

    You people just want to get on here and show how “smart” you are. This is my impression of you all at your computers, “Hey look at me, I know everything in the world and I’m going to get on this blog and use all my big words! My OPINION is FACT and don’t argue with me!” And really #23, how long did it take you to write out all that bs about megajoules?! It’s a commercial! Lighten up America!

  35. bob

    I thought it was funny.

    I was going to say “lighten up” next, but then I read Amanda’s comment. She describes comment number 23 as “all that bs about megajoules.” Um, that was math and reasoning, Amanda. It makes me sad that you cannot distinguish it from BS.

    We need to be worried about people like Amanda, not about super bowl commercials.

  36. As I surmise here, I bet Al Gore found the ad hilarious:

    Readers at this site mirror the split reax at Romm’s shop and, to a lesser extent, Grist.

    Half are saying lighten up, the other half are too worried about reinforcing bogeyman green stereotypes to allow themselves to laugh. So Sheril, what do yo think of the commercial?

  37. In case my previous comment wasn’t clear, I meant that readers at The Intersection appear split on the commercial.

  38. bilbo

    C’mon people! I’m as green as they get and I can admit the “Green Movement” is full of people who take themselves too seriously and relish in more of the preachiness of the whole thing than in what they’re actually preaching. If you’re an environmentalist and this hit some devastating sour note and made you physically ill, then it probably hit its mark. Lighten up.

  39. Jojo

    Love this ad. It’s funny, and it points out the intrusive Orwellian aspect of the environmental movement. Bravo.

  40. gillt

    Attn libertarian-leaners: is the environmental movement socialist or fascist? You have to pick one.

  41. Moptop

    “You have to pick one”

    Really? Can you define fascism? Hint, the Wikipedia definition, last time I checked anyway, is wrong.

  42. DavidS

    Great stuff Audi. Amateur hour for both scientists and communicators is over. Let the informed public discourse begin. DaveS

  43. Sean McCorkle


    About 15 minutes or something like that. Honestly, I didn’t keep track.

    Yeah its a only a commercial, but its part of a larger tapestry of a culture
    that glorifies automobiles, which are possibly the worst aspect of modern
    American consumption. And not just because they’re so environmentally
    devastating, but because they waste so much energy, and THAT is a
    national security issue.

    That little back-of-the-envelope estimate was to support my point, which in retrospect
    I should have stated more clearly: automobiles consume HUNDREDS of times
    more energy than the incandescent bulbs which are all the rage these days.

    Was it the unit of energy that set you off? Watts are defined as joules per second, thats what
    determined the choice. Or is it estimate itself or the math? Personally, I wish more americans
    would sit down and similarly survey their own energy usage. In any case, perhaps
    The Ant and the Grasshopper better conveys the message?

  44. Sean McCorkle

    correction: that should read

    automobiles waste HUNDREDS of times more energy than incandescent bulbs…

  45. fedupalready

    I love all the, “I was disturbed,” or, “uncomfortable,” comments; it shows that the viewer can relate to the possibility that something like this is actually conceivable to them and they would not want to live in a place like that (and neither would I, but I still thought it was funny, because I can recognize satire when I see it.)

    It was a great commercial. All the greenies can hate it if they want – file that hatred right next to their self-loathing.

  46. JohnG

    No such thing as bad publicity! I think Audi played to the “green” controversy very nicely. Pretty much everyone with half a brain will acknowledge that we need to conserve. Having it crammed down my throat by some smug, jet setting liberal is what makes it fall flat. Al Gore was the worst thing that ever happened to the green movement, because it polarized it along political lines instead of presenting it as a sensible direction.

    If you’re really that offended by a stupid car commercial, go outside and hug a tree on the way to work. I’ll be waiting at the office to console you and sign your paycheck.

  47. Greg G

    Greenies should self terminate and help save the world by their selfless action! Anything less is pure hypocrisy on their part. Hear their great leader speak!

  48. Clay

    I loved the ad. I went and test drove one… LOVED it.

    Just because Global Warming has been outed as a hoax doesn’t mean we shouldn’t conserve in the interest of conservation of resources.

    I’m buying the Audi TDI.

  49. GeorgeS

    It was a bad ad. Lighten up. Somebody might be fired unless sales go up.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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