Toyota and BMW Have Their Ads Replaced Overnight, Eco-Warriors Demand Climate Justice

Environmental activists kickstarted an international campaign that sought to replace BMW and Toyota outdoor advertisements with parodies of the vehicles they sell. This coordinated event happened just in time for the Brussels Motor Show. Here’s the whole story.
Activists' Replaced Toyota Ad in the UK 9 photos
Photo: Brighton BDS on Twitter
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Calling themselves “subvertisers,” the activists claim that carmakers are misinforming prospective buyers. They also say that brands like Toyota and BMW are taking advantage of a phenomenon called greenwashing, which refers to deceiving customers about the positive impact of a product or a service on the environment.

The people involved in the campaign that mocks BMW and Toyota through outdoor advertising received help from 12 artists who submitted witty artwork that replaced 400 billboards in 14 European cities. The action comes right as this year’s Brussels Motor Show car-centric event celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Activists say that Belgium’s capital city has lately been overwhelmed by billboards displaying all sorts of cars. They also argue that the messages associated with them are not honest. So, to put their own vision about these new vehicles out there, they decided to make use of the artwork all over Brussels. Overnight, the city was filled with new ads which painted a different perspective. They even managed to get them into bus stops, train stations, or inside subways.

The Toyota Land Cruiser is the "Land Crusher" in the activists' campaign

For example, Toyota’s Land Cruiser got renamed the 'Toyota Land Crusher' and was joined by “Crush the life” or “Dominate life” slogans written in French and English. The UK-style number plate also reads "CO2 XXL" which is hinting at the vehicle's carbon footprint. This is how activists tried to emphasize the SUV’s large dimensions and its off-road capabilities which may be used to the detriment of protecting wildlife and their habitats.

Outdoor Ad Campaign Done Against Toyota by Activists
Photo: Katy Rodda Still Wants 2m on Twitter
Another Japanese SUV can be seen in some adverts with a bright purple paint job, surrounded by nothing but smoke and destruction, while the writing says that this billboard is a commercial “for the end of the world.”

The activists also claim that Toyota’s transition to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) is not a real strategy. According to them, the automaker will continue manufacturing “gas-guzzlers for decades to come.” Toyota’s CEO is also depicted as the protagonist of a horror movie where it's suggested that the only thing he sees worthy is oil and the environment doesn't matter.

On the other hand, BMW has been targeted through even harsher artworks. Some display messages like “When we test our emission, the test dummy – is you.” Even though these are made by artists in a somewhat relatable design, the text and images replicate to some degree the official identity of the brand. This may make them look almost like they were approved and plastered everywhere by the manufacturer itself.

Other posters depict a BMW X5 as the image of a “guaranteed climate catastrophe.”

One of the artists who participated in this campaign said they picked BMW because of the Dieselgate-era emission scandals. Darren Cullen says that BMW "was one of the car manufacturers who installed emissions test cheating devices in thousands of their vehicles, which meant they released far more toxic fumes than regulators and consumers believed."

BMW, slammed for promoting oversized SUVs

The eco-warriors demand the UK and the EU introduce the same mandatory labeling for car advertisements as it is now standard practice for tobacco-based products. This may include even banning some ads before they can be shown to the public. The people involved in this movement also underline that BMW and Toyota carry out “aggressive lobbying against climate policy” and blame them for not selling more EVs.

Outdoor Ad Campaign Against BMW Done by Activists
Photo: Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives on Twitter
A spokesperson argued that Toyota isn’t serious about its transition to zero-tailpipe emission vehicles and accused both the Japanese and German manufacturers of “slick marketing campaigns that promote over-sized SUV models that clog up urban neighborhoods.”

The activists also hate the idea of all-electric SUVs because they’re too big and endanger people, a notion which was made clear last year by “The Tire Extinguishers.”

The results of the campaign have been spotted in Brussels, London, Berlin, Paris, and other ten major European cities from the UK, France, Germany, and Belgium. It is an effort made by three organizations – Brandalism, Subvertisers’ International, and Extinction Rebellion.

Toyota missed the start of the all-electric race

While Toyota may struggle with finding the successful recipe for a great all-electric vehicle, BMW succeeded in offering customers alternative options to fossil-fuel-powered models. However, no matter what carmakers are currently doing, the UK and the EU have already made up their minds regarding vehicles that come with a tailpipe. If regulators stick to their plan, new gas- or diesel-powered vehicles will disappear from dealerships from 2035.

Interestingly enough, the activists say that Toyota and BMW rank 10th and 16th, respectively, on the "anti-climate lobbying map" cropped up by InfluenceMap, a self-named "independent think-tank," which encompasses a UK nonprofit organization and a U.S.-based charity.

For now, it’s not entirely clear if the authorities will seek to punish the eco-warriors or if the cities’ administrations will want reparations for what the organizations did. BMW and Toyota might also try to get reimbursements if they realize that their ads were not displayed properly. It’s unclear if the activists paid for the advertising space or just replaced the original ads with the artwork. But, at least for now, the organizations behind this movement managed to attract people's attention. How effective their actions will be... Well, that's up for debate.

Finally, besides overlapping with the 100th edition of the Brussels Motor Show, this campaign comes soon after it was uncovered that Exxon predicted what climate change would do to Earth but kept this information hidden from the public and relevant authorities. However, we reported about this back in 2017 when we showed you that Exxon lied about global warming for 40 years.

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About the author: Florin Amariei
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Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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