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Land Rover: Lies, insults and arrogant TV ads February 12, 2007

Posted by Andreas in Environment, Society, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
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There’s an ad on the TV at the moment that’s really bugging me. You might have seen it yourself, it’s the one for the new Land Rover.

An Inuit man is seen steering his husky-drawn sled across an ice and snow-covered landscape. Suddenly a big Land Rover pulls up next to him. The man driving the SUV and the Inuit smile and wave at each other through the passenger window.

The Inuit is so perplexed by the sight of the man in the comfort of his car with his dog curled up on the backseat that he loses control of his sled and is thrown off it. In the next scene, the Inuit is seen running after the Land Rover and the bolted sled.

Last, we are shown the Land Rover logo with the punch line, “Go Further”, written below it. Fin. (There’s actually another version which I found online, and which I guess we might still get to see on our TV’s, in which the Land Rover driver gives the Inuit and his huskies a lift).

Why do I dislike it so much that I would rant about it in public? Well, for starters, it’s a lie. In the deep arctic wilderness, which is where we’re obviously meant to believe this is happening, you will not come across a man in a Land Rover taking his doggy for a joyride – no roads, no petrol stations, no cars, not even 4x4s. But then most ads lie almost by definition, so that’s not the main reason.

What annoys me more about this particular ad is that it’s almost as if someone tried to come up with a perfect parody of the relationship between modern civilisation and so-called primitive people. The civilised way of life (symbolised by the Land Rover and its driver) performs better and is more comfortable in the very environment which has up until now been the harsh and inhospitable home of the primitive indigenous people.

I consider it an insult to my intelligence that I’m expected to ignore the fact that Inuit have successfully lived in this environment for hundreds of years in balance with nature and without destroying their environment, while huge, petrol-guzzling cars like the Land Rover are one of the very reasons why the Arctic is melting away before our eyes.

Modern civilisation literally overtakes the savage (noble, but still savage), whose inferior way of life (the sled) disappears into the distance. Civilisation hardly notices the genocide and environmental destruction it leaves in it’s wake and carries on its merry way without giving it another thought. (In the second version, of course, civilisation saves the primitive from themselves by graciously taking them into the future, the civilised, motorised future).

You may say that I’m over-analysing this whole thing, but to my mind the ad really stinks to high heaven. It displays the same arrogance towards indigenous people that was exhibited recently by the government of Botswana in its dealings with the Basarwa Bushmen.

When are we going to learn to respect indigenous people and their incredible knowledge of living on this planet in a sustainable fashion? When will we stop looking at them as miserable basket cases in need of our civilised guidance? When will we realise that we may very well need their know-how very soon to overcome our own problems?

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Comments»

1. RON - February 12, 2007

Tell me something, do you drive a vehicle at all? Just curious… but please do let me know.

2. Andreas - February 12, 2007

Hey Ron. Sure,I drive a petrol-guzzling old Honda Ballade. You?

3. Steve - February 14, 2007

Andreas,

one – yes you are over-analysing the ad. It is an ad. Ads. are not meant to expain universal truths they are meant to sell things.

two – your romantic views about the purity of our indigenous peoples are misguided. The indigenous people of Papua New Guinea still eat each other; the indigenous people of Indonesia burn the rain forest to such an extent that the sky is blackened for four months of the year; the indigenous people of the Middle East (and many other cultures) believe women are chattels and should be covered up head to foot and stoned to death if they have extra-marital sex. Believe it or not, there are many examples of Western, modern, civilizations which have improved life.

Glad you noticed the ad. though – I sell Land Rovers for a living !

4. Andreas - February 14, 2007

Steve,

one and a bit – thanks for being honest about ads. I agree, ads are meant to sell things, …by lying, which is why I generally dislike them.

two and a bit – I never said that indigenous lifestyles are without problems. There is no question that indigenous people affected their neighbours and their environment and sometimes negatively so. There can, however, be no doubt that the impact that modern civilisation has had and is having is vastly more destructive than anything indigenous people ever came up with.

The way “civilised” people have treated “primitive” people has been dishonest, brutal and genocidal almost without exception. To trivialise and parody this “relationship”, which is what I’m suggesting the Land Rover ad is doing, is shameful.

(By the way, when you refer to “the indigenous people of the Middle East”, I presume you are broadly speaking about muslims living in that part of the world. I hate to break it to you, but they are very much part of the “civilised” world.)

Land Rover has, in fact, got a pretty bad track-record when it comes to blatantly racist ads. A reader of this blog reminded me of two previous examples. Here is what he had to say:

“In the mid 1990s I was absolutely flabbergasted by an ad in which a man with a Land Rover is surrounded by admiring bushmen – in the radio ad I remember how the clicking language of the bushmen was presented with dizzying condescension – see the primitive people, childlike, wonder at the amazing technology. It was a nasty piece of work

And then in about 2001 Land Rover had an add in which they showed an Ovahimba woman, half naked, with her breasts blown sideways by the wind of the passing ‘new, more powerful Land Rover Freelander’…”

So yes, I did notice the ad. It’s one of the reasons why I will never buy a Land Rover and why I will encourage everyone I know to do the same!

5. Andreas - February 14, 2007

And another thing… the cannibals of Papua New Guinea have nothing on the endless wars of the civilised which kill thousands of innocent people (oops, make that “collateral damage”) with monotonous regularity.

Oh, I almost forgot: simply blaming “indigenous people of Indonesia” for burning the rain forest is to literally miss the forest for the trees. Here are some factual reports on that particular issue:

http://news.mongabay.com/2006/1015-indonesia.html

http://www.fire.uni-freiburg.de/iffn/country/id/id_24.htm

http://www.cifor.cgiar.org/fire/Underlying_causes.htm

6. dru - September 18, 2008

Hi, can anyone send me a link to the advert either on TV or in print media? thanks!

7. Henk du Plessis - August 24, 2009

Eish! Look, you drive a Honda? At least the Land Rover did not drive over the man and his dog? The guys that manufacture your vehicle (read Japanese) use explosive tip harpoons to kill whales illegally in a declared Whale Sanctuary in the Antartic. The harpoons don’t kill them, when they are close enough to the ship, they let rip with high velocity rifles until it dies (takes almost 20 minutes). They even went as far as killing a mother and calf. All of this under the banner of “Scientific Research”. It is part of their cultural heritage. Laugable? YES! Especially when they use Hunter Killer boats and a HUGE factory ship to process the meat to be sold on the market.

I bet you see quite a lot of nice touchy feely green ads from Honda /Toyota/Nissan/Suzuki though? They are all in the business of selling a product, look around you before you start judging…

Look at what you do not see, not what you see.


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