A person wearing an animal face mask holds a placard reading "Advertising Nature Destruction"

Adfree Cities and friends protest to End SUV Ads

If you go down to the wood today you’re in for a big surprise…

Because the animals are fighting back! Following their victory against Toyota SUV ads that promoted irresponsible off-road driving, the creatures of the forest took to the streets to call for an end to all advertising for environmentally destructive SUVs.

OK, so it was just Adfree Cities and friends in animal masks, but the rest is true. On November 23, Adfree Cities, alongside Badvertising, Adblock Lambeth and XR Families, held a demo outside the offices of ad agency The&Partnership. The day before, a series of adverts made by The&Partnership for Toyota had been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for being ‘socially irresponsible’.

Our demo was a fun, family-friendly event. We wore animal masks to represent the natural world crushed by SUVs and mimicked tyre tracks on the ground as if a large SUV had driven over us. The demo took place first thing in the morning so that we could flyer staff at The&Partnership as they arrived for work.

We were very lucky to have photographer Angela Christofilou with us and some of her photos are in the gallery below.

Advertising agencies like The&Partnership and Wunderman Thompson play a critical role in enabling big polluters like Toyota and Shell to misleadingly present themselves as ‘green’ or sustainable. Ultimately, ads like these harm us all, whether that’s by selling us products contrary to our values, or by flooding the market with polluting products that drive up carbon emissions.

Adfree Cities has long called out ad agencies for representing polluters and will continue to do so in the future.

Taking Down Toyota

Toyota is the biggest car maker in the world by sales. They are also a leader in greenwash and climate delay. Toyota is regularly ranked amongst the worst car makers globally for action on climate change, including being ranked worst of all car makers for electric vehicle preparedness, and most recently coming third from bottom in Greenpeace’s annual auto rankings

Moreover, Toyota has consistently lobbied against climate action in countries around the world. Here in the UK they have been a vocal opponent of the zero emissions vehicle mandate, going so far as to threaten to end UK manufacturing if the mandate wasn’t dropped. More recently, Toyota was actively lobbying against the mandate in the months up to Rishi Sunak announcing a delay to the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035. Read more here and here, and see Toyota’s positive response to Sunak’s announcement here

Led from the top by former CEO and now chairman Akio Toyoda, Toyota has been a prominent critic of electric vehicles and routinely pushed the idea that hybrids (which still rely on fossil fuels) are a better choice for drivers and for the planet. To date, Toyota offers just one battery electric vehicle, the bZ4X. In 2022, just 0.42% of Toyota’s total global sales were zero emission vehicles (BEVs or FCEVs), whilst hybrids made up 98.6% of electric sales. 

End SUV Ads

From roughly 4% of vehicle sales in 2010, SUVs now make up 40% of sales in the UK. Carmakers like to claim they are simply responding to demand, but the reality is that for years they have poured the majority of their marketing budget into SUVs, flooding the airwaves with SUV SUV SUV. Evidence from New Zealand shows that carmakers in 2022 spent nearly 5 times as much advertising SUVs than they did small vehicles.

This is a big problem. Globally, CO2 emissions from SUVs are equivalent to those from the UK and Germany combined. If SUVs were a country they would be the sixth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. More locally, SUVs, due to their increased size and weight, produce more air pollution from their exhausts, breaks and tyres than small cars. This is true even for electric SUVs (although obviously without the exhaust pollution). They are also a threat to other road users, again due to being bigger and heavier. Road fatalities rose 18% in the US between 2019 and 2022, largely as a consequence of the number of SUVs on the roads.

Advertising normalises SUVs and and promotes a kind of driving that separates the driver from the road and from consequences. We are calling for a full ban on SUV advertising to help take these dangerous and polluting anti-social luxury bulldozers off our streets.

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