Saturday, August 24, 2019
News, analysis and commentary by UBC Journalism students


Choosing our battles

Earlier this month, Ford received some consumer backlash over an advertisement that, some argue, went too far. The full-page ad,…

By Lucy Gotell , in Blogs You Expect Me to Buy That? Issues in Media Marketing , on January 29, 2008

Earlier this month, Ford received some consumer backlash over an advertisement that, some argue, went too far.

The full-page ad, appearing in an issue of the Winnipeg Free Press, depicts the back-end of an SUV sporting a bumper sticker that reads, “Drive it like you stole it.” Beneath the sticker is a banner reading “Built for life in Manitoba.”

Ford of Canada pulled the ad after receiving complaints from angry Manitobans who were offended by the assumed glamorization of car theft. This reaction is understandable given that approximately 20 vehicles are stolen every day in Manitoba. Winnipeg has even earned the less-then coveted reputation of being Canada’s “car-theft capital,” according to a recent CBC article.

Winnipeg resident Kelly Van Camp, who was injured after being hit by a stolen SUV while jogging last year, called the ad “ridiculous,” and recommended someone lose their job over it.

Now, I can understand how such an advertising scheme could offend those who have been affected directly by car theft and by the violence that sometimes ensues. But Ford, along with other car companies, has been using another marketing tactic that is just as controversial for years: speeding.

According to some research, speed is the number-one contributing factor in road fatalities. Within the past few months I myself have read about several fatal accidents where speed was thought to be a factor.

So why aren’t everyday people, like Mr. Van Camp, protesting the use of speeding and other high-risk driving behavior in ads? Or, if they are, why isn’t it resulting in these ads being pulled like Ford’s?

Perhaps the depictions of speed are so deeply ingrained in our collective, media-doused subconscious that we don’t take notice anymore. Personally, when I heard about the uproar over Ford’s ad, it was probably the first time I also thought about the glamorization of speed in commercials.

Who knows, if Ford has the gall to slowly integrate a few more theft-promoting ads into the mainstream, it could become as acceptable to the public as pulling u-turns in the middle of traffic.