Alisa Opar
Published: 02/08/2010

The commercial opens with a familiar scene. At the grocery store checkout, the teller asks, “Paper or plastic?” “Uh, plastic,” replies the shopper. Boom! A cop swoops in, pins the customer’s arms behind him, and leads him away, saying “That’s the magic word. Green police. You picked the wrong day to mess with the ecosystem, plastic boy.”

The men and women who make up the green police (remarkably powerful, yet seemingly good natured, not mean) are everywhere: Going through peoples’ trash to check for batteries, nailing a guy for “compost infraction,” cracking down on “possession of incandescent light bulbs.”

What, you might be asking, is this commercial advertising? A car:

Traffic is backed up at an eco checkpoint. But one guy gets to bypass the line and hit the road—the guy driving the Audi A3 TDI clean diesel (which won Green Car Journal’s 2010 Green Car of the Year award presented at the Los Angeles Auto Show in December).

The ad is obviously aimed at men—all of the law-breakers are males who seem baffled to learn they’re breaking the rules.

Watching the commercial reminded me of a recent New York Times article about how more therapists say that one member of a couple going green can strain the relationship. Guess which half typically wants to cut down on meat and take tote bags to the grocery store:

Women, said Christienne deTournay Birkhahn, executive director of the EcoMom Alliance, often see men as not paying sufficient attention to the home. Men, for their part, “really want to make a large impact and aren’t interested in a small impact.”

It’s true that what type of car you drive makes a big impact in terms of carbon footprint. Watching the commercial again, I have to admit that it’s growing on me. The fact that it features music by Cheap Trick doesn’t hurt. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless list of small things we're supposed to do to ease our burden on the planet, so the idea of making one big change—even if Audi’s notion is misguided—is extremely appealing. And seeing a man arrested while wearing swim trunks is funny.

What do you think of the commercial? Is it effective, or off-putting? Misguided, or right on target?