Land Rover ad promoting 'Brixton SUV safari' leaves eco-activists fuming

Land Rover’s latest advertising campaign 'Live for the City' has been poorly received by environmentalists. It promoted its latest Range Rover Evoque by suggesting drivers take a tour of London in their 4x4.

The ‘Live for the City’ campaign from creative agency Spark44 was conceived to extol a sense of urban adventure among viewers and to "prove that the Land Rover is also for urban city dwellers". It featured fashion model and mental health activist Adwoa Aboah in a series of films following her London routines and rituals. From the interior of the Range Rover Evoque she "paid tribute" to neighbourhoods like Brixton and Golborne Road.

This message clashed with many online, inspiring hundreds of negative comments on the initial tweet of the video.

The Guardian columnist and environmentalist George Monbiot tweeted that the ad “proposing a human safari through Brixton - in an enormous SUV” was “disgusting and ill-judged”.

He criticised it for promoting a position where drivers are “poisoning people with the exhaust fumes, using inordinate space, endangering pedestrians as you gawp at people rather than watching the road.”

On the SUV itself, he added: “An SUV like this might be necessary if you're a hill farmer, living halfway up a mountain. It is entirely inappropriate in a city. If you want to see the sights and meet people, walk. Any sensible transport policy would keep such vehicles out of London.

“Brixton is not a human zoo. The people who live there are not 'exotics' to be stared at and objectified. Could Land Rover have made a bigger mess of this if it had tried?” He added.

Further tweets responding to the video added: “Increased pollution and congestion really isn't what Brixton needs, thanks very much!”; “Better maybe to explore London on foot or using its amazing public transport network,”; and “Never lived in London but from what I gather it is basically pointless owning a car there. Bit of an odd choice. I mean, I'm hardly the target market.”

London isn't the only city to be visited by the Range Rover Evoque in this campaign. Edinburgh also featured with much the same response. It will later touch down with Durban, Shanghai and Bogota.

"NO! Stay away from our city. It's not built for huge, monstrous, gas-guzzling polluting cars," said one Edinburgh commentator.

Land Rover told The Drum: "Opinion on our ‘Live for the City’ campaign shows a clear lack of understanding of Land Rover products and associated technologies.

"Every new Land Rover model on sale will offer the option of electrification, the New Range Rover Evoque has electrified powertrain options of MHEV and PHEV - so will be able to run in any city in EV mode with zero emissions. The Evoque is a compact SUV similar in length to a VW Golf, the diesel version surpasses the latest government emissions legislation - making it one of the cleanest engines on the market."

In the campaign's initial press release, Aboah said: “London is a huge part of my identity and it’s taught me so much. One of the most special things about the city is the huge diversity that we have and with that, the passion and understanding for others that we learn."

She said the campaign was conceived to connect "like-minded creatives to their cities".

Dan Drage, global creative director, Spark44, added: “The new Range Rover Evoque is the perfect vehicle to explore your city and start to see it differently... “we hope this campaign will encourage Evoque owners to create their own urban adventures and write their own stories in the cities they live for and love.”

In April it was revealed that two million people in London are living with illegal air pollution, according to the London Atmospheric Emission Inventory. This figure includes 400,000 children. As the report was released, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: "I have been crystal clear that I would do everything in my power to tackle London’s toxic air crisis." Across the UK, air pollution causes at least 40,000 early deaths.

It is perhaps a case that the creative lands in a different environment, according to the UN, we only have 12 years left to limit climate change disaster. It comes post-Greta Thunberg climate crusade, after The Guardian changing its language on climate change to better illustrate the scale of the problem, and after activist group Extinction Rebellion told ad land that they have the power to change the world for the better – and if they don’t people may turn on them.

Volkswagen courted similar controversy with a new campaign acknowledging the emissions scandal and unveiling a new electric-focused future. This new direction referred to the emissions scandal as "bad buzz", undermining the severity of the issue.

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