Activists have installed 400 fake billboards in cities across Europe and are calling on governments to introduce “tobacco-style” advertising bans on polluting petrol and diesel vehicles.
The groups are demanding more robust policy from governments to regulate the advertisement of environmentally harmful products and prevent misleading green claims from big polluters.
There is growing international momentum behind the idea of advertising bans on products that accelerate the climate crisis. Towns, cities and even countries have introduced such bans including France, which last year became the first European country to outlaw fossil fuel car advertising.
The confronting artwork created and installed by activist groups Subvertisers’ International, Brandalism and Extinction Rebellion, is designed to draw attention to the huge amount of greenwashing and anti-climate lobbying conducted by the legacy automotive industry.
One billboard shows an image of a Toyota vehicle surrounded with skulls, fires and pollution with the headline “Let’s ruin everything” (an interesting variant on the former Australian Coalition government’s attack on EVs, which they said will ‘ruin the weekend’.)
“Mr Toyota says: Screw the climate” reads another hacked banner targeting Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, who recently said that the ‘Silent Majority’ has doubts about pursuing only EVs.
Electric vehicles make up just 0.2% of Toyota’s total production, so any major shift towards electric vehicles is both a major challenge to the company’s business model and a potential threat to its profits.
Toyota’s record of suppressing clean technology
Last year a Greenpeace report titled Under the hood exposed Toyota’s secret plan to slow the transition to electric vehicles. The strategy was to suppress new fuel efficiency standards, block clean air regulation and pressure governments to support fossil fuel powered hybrid cars.
Violette Snow, who authored the report, said: “Toyota is Australia’s largest and most trusted car maker, but its international track record of aggressive global lobbying against measures to lower climate pollution from transport has seen it ranked in the world’s top three most influential fossil fuel lobbyists, alongside Exxon Mobil and Chevron.”
BMW was also targeted in the new billboard campaign with one London tube advert saying: “When we test our emissions the test dummy is you”. The ad tells commuters that like Volkswagan, BMW installed devices to cheat on emissions tests.
The ad goes on to say “So whether you drive our cars or simply breath their fumes, thanks for taking part in our experiment on your health”
The activists also sought to expose the widespread greenwashing the industry, noting that with 99.8% of its vehicle sales being petrol and diesel powered and no detailed plans to scale EV production, Toyota’s ‘Beyond Zero’ slogan is highly misleading.
Legacy car industry spends billions marketing polluting ICE vehicles
The automotive industry spends an astronomical amount of money advertising its highly polluting vehicles. In the US, the ten biggest car companies including Toyota, Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford spent US$12 billion on ads in 2021 alone.
This makes the car industry one of the largest clients for television, radio and newspaper companies which is why the mainstream media rarely reports on the terrible health and environmental impacts of petrol and diesel cars.
In a video released on today on twitter, Brandalism claimed that the reason Toyota and BMW were singled out was because they were ranked amongst the worst companies in the world for lobbying against climate policies.
WATCH: Subvertisers in 14 European cities have hacked 400 corporate ad spaces with parody car adverts. #Toyota, and #BMW are using advertising to greenwash their public image whilst lobbying hard against climate regulations.#BanFossilAds #BeyondZero #BrusselsMotorShow pic.twitter.com/IM2TJue6is
— Brandalism (@BrandalismUK) January 16, 2023
The #BanFossilAds campaign has been timed with the European Motor Show, which is being held in Brussels this week.
Daniel Bleakley is a clean technology researcher and advocate with a background in engineering and business. He has a strong interest in electric vehicles, renewable energy, manufacturing and public policy.