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The New Nissan Leaf Ad: Humorless, Brilliant, or Both? The New Nissan Leaf Ad: Humorless, Brilliant, or Both?

The New Nissan Leaf Ad: Humorless, Brilliant, or Both?

by Andrew Price
May 29, 2011

The new ad for the all-electric Nissan Leaf asks, "What if everything ran on gas?" and answers in the form of vignettes from a smoggy alternate reality in which our microwaves, computers, and cell phones spew out exhaust.

When I first saw the ad, it struck me as pretty brilliant. The idea of our high-tech gadgets being powered by gas feels incongruous (and in the ad, looks pretty unpleasant). We think of gas as an Industrial Age power source, whereas iPods and computers are Information Age products. By highlighting that contrast, the ad is selling electric cars as modern and efficient, rather than as the saviors of rainforests. That's gives them an aspirational appeal that resonates with a much broader swath of America than just the treehuggers.

But not everyone at GOOD agrees. Some of my colleagues thought it was too serious. Indeed, the ad does focus on the negative, and if it's humorous, as the Nissan press folks described it in an email, it's a darker brand of humor. (Though the shot of a Chevy Volt at a gas station does make for a fun punchline.)

Then again, maybe it's both a little serious and a brilliant piece of marketing. They aren't mutually exclusive. I'd be interested to hear what readers think.

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