I hate Hummers. They’re the best example of America’s lack of commitment to cleaner and more efficient vehicles. They guzzle gas–averaging nine miles per gallon–helping keep the country dependent on foreign oil. They’re loud, anti-social and obnoxious. They hasten global warming’s impact by emitting more than three times the amount of carbon dioxide produced by an average car. And they make the roads less safe–as do all SUVs. Their hulking mass and consequent lack of maneuverability actually increases the number of accidents on the road. And studies show that passengers in cars that collide with SUVs are 3.4 times more likely to be killed. To top it off, small business owners who purchase Hummers receive a $100,000 tax break under Bush’s Economic Stimulus Plan, while purchasers of the Toyota Prius hybrid receive a break of only $4,000.
But what’s really annoying about Hummers is that faux-macho pretension they project. They make a certain kind of insecure guy feel good about himself for all the wrong reasons. Don’t agree? Courtesy of Slate, check out Hummer manufacturer General Motors’ latest Hummer ad, which plays adroitly on male feelings of inadequacy. The Spot: A man waits in the checkout line at the supermarket. He’s buying organic tofu and leafy vegetables. Meanwhile, the guy in line behind him is stacking up huge racks of meat and barbecue fixings. Tofu guy, looking a bit insecure, suddenly notices an ad for the Hummer H3 SUV. Eureka! In a series of quick cuts, he exits the supermarket, dashes to the Hummer dealership, buys a new H3, and drives off–now happily munching on a large carrot. “Restore the balance,” reads the tag line.
What got me writing about Hummers today was reading that America’s fast-food giant, McDonald’s, has teamed up with GM to give away toy Hummers — 42 million of them, in eight models and colors — with every Happy Meal sold to a little boy for the next month. (The girls get Polly Pocket fashion dolls.) That’s right: The fast-food chain that helped make American children the fattest on Earth is now selling future car buyers on the fun of driving a supersized, smog-spewing, gas-guzzling SUV.
As Fark.com quipped, “McDonald’s is teaming up with Hummer, for those who’d rather not have to choose between being fat and being obnoxious.” But as the Hummer folks see it, this is just another brand awareness campaign. “I do it as an extension of advertising,” Martin Walsh, general manager at Hummer, told Ad Age. “Any time you get your brand in front of people, that’s an extension of advertising.” (The McDonald’s website even links to a site called HummerKids.com. However, when you click on HummerKids.com, you’re really taken to Hummer.com. Not a kid’s site. )
To highlight the foolishness of Mickey D’s new efforts to promote the Hummer brand to its young customers, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has introduced Ronald McHummer’s Sign-O-Matic. A nifty interactive tool, the Sign-O-Matic lets you write your own slogan about the Hummer giveaway and display it as if it were on a McDonald’s marquee–the downloading possibilities are rife. Then, send a copy of your work along with a message to the president of the fast-food chain, Ralph Alvarez. Take this creative opportunity to express your disdain for McDonald’s perplexing decision to team up with one of America’s most regressive products. Click here to see and vote on your favorite signs. Check out and circulate Code Pink’s Top Ten reasons not to buy a Hummer. See the Sierra Club’s HummerDinger site for more resources. Finally, don’t miss artist Dave Ward’s anti-Hummer ad campaign on Flickr.
[FULL DISCLOSURE: The EWG is a current Nation advertiser. I’m plugging their campaign because I think it’s worthy, not because the group has a (very minor) economic relationship with the magazine.]