Frack me: Toys R Us ad is Pied Piper to eco-apocolypse


Busloads of kids get surprise trip to Toys”R”Us – YouTube.

The latest from the media gods, whose gifts keep on giving for all the wrong reasons. In the newest installment, this Toys R Us ad blows over all commons sense like a climate change induced hurricane. The ad depicts a busload of mostly kids of color who are being taken on a field trip to “nature” (I use quotation marks because it is ultimately a false distinction). It mocks environmental education by falsely depicting a boring, un-engaged presentation about oak leaves. Then suddenly the kids learn that they had been tricked and were actually going to Toys R Us. Like moths to a flame, they sprint ecstatically into a furnace of Chinese-manufactured toxins.*

The ad is wrong on so many levels, but let’s start with the demographic of the children. Urban kids of color have been shown to have “nature deficit” because of a lack of access to environmental education and “nature.” Under-served youths tend to live in cities and attend schools that don’t have the resources for environmental education. This problem is being addressed by the No Child Left Inside model, but there is a long way to go, and ads like this certainly don’t help the matter.

Toys R Us offers itself as a kind of WIllie Wonka of the consumer sublime, a concept developed by David Nye. Over the past hundred and fifty years or so as we have shifted into techno-scientific modernity, the sublime has transformed from an experience of awe of nature to awe of the technological cornucopia that surrounds us. The ad reinforces this by representing its toy store as a magical kingdom of discovery and amazement. But the ancient meaning of awe–”terror–comes closer to the reality behind Toys R Us, a kind of Lord of the Flies of globalization.

It just amazes me that the more we know about the state of our planetary ecological crisis, the more corporations shill denial. Also, it’s hard to believe this wasn’t made by The Onion.

PS Check out The Cobert Reports’ response.

* I’m not China bashing here, just drawing attention to where this crap is made. Just as the Colombians shouldn’t be blamed for our coke addiction, nor should we accuse the Chinese for our over-consumerism.

Facebook’s mistaken identity

Interesting ad from Facebook to commemorate its 1 billionth user (how is that possible?). Here there are many deep truths, and also some deep untruths. I believe the need to connect with others is the primary reason why we use media. We don’t like feeling alone. This sentiment is capture beautifully by the ad. However, Facebook’s suggestion that it’s like a doorbell, chair or bridge is completely disingenuous. Those are objects that lack a systemic, corporate agenda that tracks its users interests and then sells them as commodities. Imagine the chair you sit in monitors all the activities of the room you’re in and the conversations your having with your friends. The chair then compiles that information and sells it to other chairs so that when you enter into other spaces, the chair forces you to sit in a particular position so that you see ads or through a window that you had no intention of looking through. What if the chairs re-arranged themselves to encourage you to sit with particular people that you didn’t intend to sit with? I imagine that we wouldn’t like these chairs very much.

For more about the ad, check out this Ad Age article.

Chipotle grammy ad


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Just in case you didn’t watch the Grammy Awards (I didn’t either), it featured this commercial, which is a fairly good example of ecological communication. By explaining a complicated system with concrete symbolism, this is a good demonstration of how advertising techniques can promote positive thinking. Chipotle, which you may have seen featured in the documentary Food Inc., wants to highlight its “food with integrity” program that promotes the humane treatment of animals and a decentralized food system. The soundtrack features Willie Nelson covering Radiohead. Wow!

For more background info about the ad, Esquire provides in-depth coverage.

Here’s a bonus video. The following vid is the opening sequence for Food Inc. Notice how the narration and visuals are a kind of food media literacy.


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Lorax forced to shill for consumerism

If you can’t see this, please go to the link here.

Universal Pictures’s Lorax can’t get any love. First, grade schoolers attacked the film studio for a lack of environmental materials on its Web site, then Fox’s right-wing host Lou Dobbs accused it of conspiring to undermine capitalism, and now environmentalists are up in arms about the merchandise and commercial tie-ins associated with the film (including disposable diapers, Double Tree hotels and IHOP). As to be expected, Dobbs’s rant is rather juvenile compared to the sensible response of kids faced with living in Fox’s demented universe. As for the tie-ins, read on.

The latest outrage is the emergence of a “Truffula tree friendly” SUV ad for a Mazda (posted above).
In response, the best quip comes from Mediate: “Having The Lorax shill for a sport utility vehicle is like using clips of Requiem For A Dream to sell diet pills, it goes completely against the spirit of the source material!” Appropriately, Jason Bittel offered this little Dr. Seuss-esque ditty:


A Lorax-branded combustion engine? I mean, seriously?

Not a hydrogen? Not an electric?

Not even a Thneed-sponsored cross-breed?



Whoever is in charge of branding

For the Lorax’s mula-making machine -

Have you read the book you’re hijacking?

Did you misinterpret what it means?

They might be giants (but not for long)

Judging from these ads I presume that Korean Air’s primary clientele are the Yuppie Gods of Mount Olympus. And it may be true, considering the increasing disparity of wealth between the “Globos,” those members of the global elite who jet to Paris for wine tasting on the weekend, and the rest of the world now clinging to the sinking lifeboats of transnational capitalism. The question remains, what happens to the Gods when the glaciers melt and they no longer have adequate water to drink? Cassandra, Pandora… where are you when we need you most?

Incidentally, without intending to do so, this is my Blog Action Day Post. This year’s theme is water. So while the giants are frolicking in the clouds, it might behoove them to consider the following facts (all are from the Blog Action Day Website):

A Human Right: In July, to address the water crisis, the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right over. But we are far from implementing solutions to secure basic access to safe drinking water. More Info »

40 Billion Hours: African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. More Info »

38,000 Children a Week: Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. More Info »

Wars Over Water: Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa. More Info »

Cell Phones vs. Toilets: Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets, but many more have access to a cell phone. More Info »

Food Footprint: It takes 24 liters of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 19.9 billion liters of water to make just one hamburger for every person in Europe. More Info »

Technology Footprint: The shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires half a liter of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that’s 40 million liters to charge those alone. More Info »

Fashion Footprint: That cotton t-shirt you’re wearing right now took 1,514 liters of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 liters. More Info »

Bottled Water Footprint: The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled. More Info »

Waste Overflow: Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water sources. This not only negatively impacts the environment but also harms the health of surrounding communities. More Info »

Polluted Oceans: Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year. More Info »

Uninhabitable Rivers: Today, 40% of America’s rivers and 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life. More Info »

Building Wells: Organizations like Water.org and charity: water are leading the charge in bringing fresh water to communities in the developing world. More Info »

Technology for Good: Do you want to measure how much water it took to make your favorite foods? There’s an app for that. More Info »

Conservation Starts at Home: The average person uses 465 liters of water per day. Find out how much you use and challenge your readers to do that same. More Info »

Keeping Rivers Clean: We can all take small steps to help keep pollution out of our rivers and streams, like correctly disposing of household wastes. More Info »

Drop the Bottle: Communities around the world are taking steps to reduce water bottle waste by eliminating bottled water. More Info »

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools: Students in developing countries lose 443 million school days each year due to diseases associated with the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene. Repeated episodes of diarrhea and worm infestations diminish a child’s ability to learn and impair cognitive development. More Info »