Audi and the Super Bowl Social Media Shit Storm

German car manufacturer Audi may be about to enter a PR shit storm, thanks to the naming of their social media campaign in the run-up to their Super Bowl ad.

The campaign (run by Audi of America) is based around a new creation called the Green Police, who will spearhead a social media program to build interest in Audi’s ad at this year’s football showcase. The Green Police enforce ways to protect the environment, and encourage people to a better understanding of environmental issues. There’s currently a series of YouTube mock education videos as part of the program, as well as a Green Police Twitter account.

The problem is, there’s already been a Green Police enforcement organization, but not one that you’d want to be associated with. This Green Police was part of the Nazi persecution and execution of millions of Jews in the Holocaust of the Second World War.

The implications of Audi’s choice of name for their campaign could be huge, especially since Audi is a German company. The first question is obvious – didn’t anyone at Audi’s PR or advertising arm/agency do any research?

It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds and what Audi’s response will be as the connections to an unwanted history become clear, especially as today marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

What’s your take on what Audi should do next?

  • Update February 01 2010: Audi of America has issued a response to the post, which you can find here. While their response is sound, they may also wish to look at this resource from the Jewish Virtual Library vaults (if they haven’t already), or this report for further correlation. Additionally, Audi state that they researched and tested the ads prior to running them, and sought input from the Jewish community. Curiosity begs the question: if the research prior to the ad being run didn’t return any “red flags” about possible connotations to the term Green Police, why the need to seek input from the Jewish community about an environmentally friendly product?

Sign up for free weekly content

Enter your first name and email below to get my free weekly newsletter with the latest posts, recommended reading, content tips and more.

(I respect your privacy and will never spam you)

Blog consulting with Danny Brown

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. says

    As a PR company, you HAVE to research. If you’re going to demonstrate anything as “enforcers” or “police” especially – if you don’t know history, double check and make sure there isn’t another campaign out there like that.

    Where was the basic research as it was to see if a name like that existed?

    • says

      C’mon people, there’s ‘Green Police’ in Israel – why create an issue where none exists? Take a hint from the Israelis:

      “The Green Police is the main arm of the Ministry of Environmental Protection in the area of enforcement and deterrence.”

      From the web site of Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection http://j.mp/97KNc0

      Is this fear-mongering is really designed to create traffic to the blog with this made-up controversy? I hope not – I think the author’s post was well-intended, but I’d expect an edit highlighting that the term “Green Police” is used in *Israel* of all places.
      .-= Ksenia Coffman´s most recent blog post …Wireless Security and Surveillance Presentation =-.

      • says

        Hi Ksenia,

        As you’ll see in some other comments, that point has been raised. Additionally, I’ve already updated the post to Audi’s response.

        Two thing regular readers of this blog know is that I don’t “fear monger”; I simply share a story that offers a point of view, or raises a question. I also always offer (or share from others) both sides to every argument. This is the same here.

        Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, appreciated.

        • says

          While not ‘fear-mongering’, the title of this post is overly dramatic – ‘sh*t storm’, really? It seems that you are the only blogger creating the storm.

          I’m not an expert of Jewish reaction to the term ‘Green Police’ (and neither are the people commenting on this blog), but I’d bet that the Israeli government is. If they do not see an issue in “Green Police” – why should we?

          In the end, why create a controversy where none exists?

          • Chuck Bennett says

            So, does the image of the white clean diesel TDI escaping the vise grip of totalitarian government convey freedom? Or green-compliance?

            In AUDI’s response they said that they consulted several Jewish leaders.

            Note to execs. If you have to consult a group to ensure you aren’t offending anyone. Stop right there. It’s already a bad idea. The fact that they asked a Jewish groupe, also means they “knew” a connection might be made to the real green police.

            Even without the “Green Police” Nazi connection, the very idea of the green police is either satire (lost on half people watching the game) or it’s meant to be a funny/ educational way to sell cars.

            This commercial failed on both counts. If it was satire then they should have been selling something like a hummer. If it was meant to show green compliance, then they lost the pickup driving, football watching crowd whom I heard comment at a party.. “There would be blood in the streets”

  2. says

    Do I sound old if I say my first reaction was, “Oh dear”?

    Frankly, I only see one option for Audi here; apologize, scrap the campaign name and come up with something new…and fast. The fact that a German company didn’t understand the implications of naming its fake environmental squad Green Police is inexcusable…but not unforgivable.

    So, come up with a new name for your fake environmental law enforcement organization and a well crafted apology release, take the rotten eggs sure to be hurled your way, and move on.

    • says

      I think that’s what possibly makes for a worse angle, Matt, the fact that it is a German company. I have many German friends (I’m from Europe originally) and they’re very aware of their less admirable past, and distance themselves from it intently. Which just makes Audi’s faux pas sloppy at best.

      • Dan Greenberg says

        Oh, it’s much worse than that it’s a German company. VW was founded by Hitler himself: he cut the ribbon in Wolfsburg plant where the Audi’s are made.

        The reaction above of “Oh dear” is mine precisely. If they are smart, they will pull the campaign immediately, retool it if possible, and apologize profusely.

        If they are *really* smart, they will thank the social media for bringing this to their attention. Consider that. A thank you says, “We listened” and “We’re open to our customers”. And it makes the apology that much more profound.

        • Lars says

          Just a quick correction: Audi is part of VW, but it was founded as an independent company and was later (1950s/1960s) acquired by Mercedes and then sold to VW. Audi’s main plants in Germany are in Ingolstadt and Neckersulm. Wolfsburg has only plants for Volkswagen.

          The whole situation is very unfortunate, especially because there were similar PR campaigns in the past in Germany that unknowingly used lesser known Nazi slogans or names. The result was a huge media outcry followed by an apology by the companies.

          • Jay says

            Uh, do a little more reading on your Audi history and get the facts straight…

            And fyi: the main enforcement branch for the Israeli version of the EPA is, you guessed it, the Green Police. If they don’t have a problem with it (and they don’t) then neither should you.

    • Jordan says

      you guys need to just relax… seriously!

      you’ve gotta be able to let things go eventually and i think it’s just about time. there have been SO many “green police” type advertising for ANYTHING eco friendly in the past decade that seeing green police, if you’ve been around the last decade, should be quite recognizable as being in regards to eco friendly applications.

      take a look at it from the other side. my parents were born in Canada, I was born in Canada but I’m half German. I fully agree that what the Nazis did was horrible and disgusting on scales that are hard to compare to, however, i don’t in any way feel “ashamed” or “embarrassed” because of it. IT WASN’T ME! I WAS NOT A NAZI! so get over yourselves people… the majority of these ppl who are very “cautious” about the holocaust had absolutely NOTHING to do with the holocaust.

      you’re all like conspiracy theorists…. ANYTHING that happens to coincide with another event means they’re connected to you guys. GET A LIFE!

  3. says

    Yikes! Before a concept like this even gets to the “design” phase (never mind implementation), someone is responsible for research. And, in this case, it looks like that person dropped the ball.

    Or, I wonder if there’s another side to this. Playing devil’s advocate, could Audi really think that people won’t be upset by the “Green Police?” I find that hard to believe, but could it be possible?

    Danny, I hadn’t heard about this yet. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!
    .-= Heather Whaling´s most recent blog post …Print is … in? =-.

    • says

      Even a junior intern with less than a minute of quick Googling could have said, “Hmm, this might cause issues – can someone approve?”

      Seems lazy on Audi’s behalf. Unless, as you suggest, they’re aware and don’t mind the connotation.

  4. John Leschinski says

    The only option Audi should pursue is to keep marching forward with their campaign. It’s obvious what they’re trying to communicate with “Green Police” and I find it hard to believe that anyone other then those already predisposed to getting up in arms about nothing to care.

    • Ron Lasher says

      I agree, we need to move forward. We should see this for how it was ment to be seen and move forward. I do not think we should forget the past but in life you have to move forward in order to live.

  5. Michelle Shildkret says

    Seriously! Three entries down in Google is the Image Search results line… hard to miss the swastika.

  6. says

    Ugh – What an issue.

    I definitely tend to hold a grudge – my family still won’t buy products made by certain German companies. But given the green=environmental association it does seem to be a no-brainer selection.

    My crystal ball says it won’t turn into anything negative except from a small percentage of the population and this is same population that wouldn’t buy a Saab to begin with. Time passes and other people aren’t quite as stubborn as me.

  7. says

    More than 131 billion searches are made each month, that means 4 billion searches per day, 175 million per hour, and 29 million per minute. You would have hoped one of those would have been “green police” by the Audi marketing team.

    I guess I don’t even know what to say.

  8. says

    Personally I’m not offended by it. It’s just a name. I think many others will be offended though.

    Reaction: Address it, apologize for the misunderstanding and announce that they’re change the name of the campaign…

    Oh and I think all Jewish people should be given free Audi’s.
    .-= David Spinks´s most recent blog post …If you register your site for free at =-.

  9. says

    Doubt they’ll do it, but here’s what to do next.

    1 – Apologize; don’t mince words, say you were lazy, negligent, and stupid.
    2 – Make a donation in the amount of a 30-second Super Bowl Ad to a cause such as the Anti-Defamation League. See reason 1.
    3 – Take your 30-second ads that were going to be associated with this lame, me-too SMM “green” message and talk, instead, about your cars and why people should buy them.
    4 – Move on to something else altogether. Don’t make it seem like anything but a really, really stupid mistake that you want to move beyond.
    .-= Dave Van de Walle´s most recent blog post …Attention Social Media Ninjas – Meet Real Ninjas =-.

  10. says

    Audi is probably betting that most Americans didn’t pay attention in history class or maybe the marketing team that developed it didn’t either.

    Though seriously, go to Google and type in green police and click “I am feeling lucky!”. It can’t get anymore easier than than!

    We need to send this to Audi:

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=green+police

  11. says

    Danny – you never fail to amaze me with the things you bring to the table. This is bad on a few levels for Audi. The first being the Nazi issue, I guess people don’t use Google. #3 on the list was a reference to who the Green Police were. The second is really how green are Audi’s cars?

    Green is one of the most over-used words in our lexicon, but many people will automatically associate the car maker with being green. So if they are OK with some white lying one would assume that they could pull some white wool over US consumers eyes.

    You would think that an auto-maker from Germany (given the country’s sensitivity to all things WW2) would have known better. But they don’t all they care about are the green dollars.

    I wouldn’t expect an apology as that would only be the right thing to do.
    .-= Jeff Esposito´s most recent blog post …The secrets of the Internet =-.

    • says

      Cheers Jeff.

      As I mention in my response to Matt above, the sensitivity of the country’s history is probably what makes this stand out more than it may. If a search was done and they missed that reference, then that’s lazy. If a search was done and they caught it, and then think, “Meh, who’s going to care?”… while they may be right in the assumption, it’s a dangerous one to play when launching a campaign as big as the Super Bowl one.

      Particularly one with the emotional scars of the Holocaust…

  12. says

    I don’t think this is as big as some of the comments are making it out to be. First, Audi isn’t even mentioned until the last millisecond of the commercial. Second, ‘green’ is so big these days that the immediate association is about saving the planet. Third, throw in a little Cheap Trick doing a re-make of ‘Dream Police’ and you’re relating to 40-somethings. Fourth, it’s in the mode of being sort of goofy/clever with the cop in shorts talking about napkins, etc. Finally, even with the history of the Nazi Green Police, it’s so ancient to most of today’s consumers – and as any association it’s a stretch – I don’t think the net effect will be much. People pay much more attention to Tiger Woods; this is a minor fluff for Audi.
    .-= Tim ‘Gonzo’ Gordon´s most recent blog post …The Last Five Minutes =-.

    • says

      While the video doesn’t make a big deal about Audi (adding to the hoped viral effect), it’s a big deal for the company elsewhere, with news releases, Audi bloggers and others lauding the campaign. The push and big deal that Audi are making of it (it’s their first real foray into social media) gives their oversight a little added impetus (at least from my perspective). And I’m not sure that the Holocaust is something that can be brushed aside for the sake of a name.

  13. says

    Why is everyone up in arms?

    I mean, seriously?

    When you consider the nation of Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection calls its enforcement officers the Green Police — http://www.sviva.gov.il/Enviroment/bin/en.jsp?enPage=e_BlankPage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=Zone&enDispWho=green_po&enZone=green_po — it’s fair to presume Israel won’t be offended at this naming, so why are other people?

    I’m Jewish and it makes sense to me.
    .-= Ari Herzog´s most recent blog post …Happy That Summer Camps Use Social Media =-.

  14. Chris says

    How many of you googled Green Police before commenting? Yes, there are first page references to the German police force (known as the green police due to their uniform color) but there are also several references to environmentally-related organizations. So it’s not a clear case of an oversight if you’re targeting the environmentally aware.

    Having said that, if you have to explain your stance/cause/product due to a bad naming decision, you’re better off looking for something else.

    • says

      Looking at the comments, Chris, it would appear a few Googled it (both on web and image results). And I think it has more to do with the German history connection than anything else that makes this more than just a faux pas. Google laziness is one thing; historical ignorance is another.

  15. says

    Seems like Audi really didn’t do their homework. Danny, you’re right on point with a PR crisis here and I’m interested to see how it unfolds. Really makes me think twice about the brand…it’s how it works!
    .-= Grace Boyle ´s most recent blog post …Lessons From Grandparents =-.

  16. says

    This is why God created Google. 5 minutes or less of research could have surfaced this information.

    Also a good lesson for companies that anyone with a computer and an Internet connection — not that you are “just anyone,” Danny :) — can and will find issues like this one and bring them to the table. The community is not stupid. The community is smart, resourceful and many.

    I’m Jewish and am not offended by the reference. The laziness? Well, that’s another story.
    .-= Justin Goldsborough´s most recent blog post …Are Facebook fan pages the 2.0 Web site? =-.

    • says

      Oh, I am just anyone, Justin – definitely just a guy with a computer and a spare couple of minutes like anyone else. As you say, it just reinforces the fact that brands needs to be more aware of how their audience (targeted and otherwise) can be more up-to-date than they might realize. 😉

  17. says

    I have to agree with Ari Herzog on this one from the Jewish standpoint. But I do have to say I am not fond of the campaign. I don’t find it even amusing or entertaining.

    Since I find no value in the campaign from an entertainment or informational perspective that leaves one possible motivation: Controversy. Based on the issues and conversation created here on Danny’s site, I think their campaign may be successful in stimulating conversation.
    .-= Richard A Marti Jr´s most recent blog post …A Call to Help the People of Haiti =-.

  18. Sean says

    Bravo to Audi for finding such a brilliant, clever way to associate the wacko pseudo-religiulous sham movement of “environmentalism” to what it really is: NAZI-esque attempts to control people’s lives.

    And you wrapped it in a catchy ad-campaign to top it off. All of you people who have posted your “bad taste” commentary are all EXACTLY the Politically-Correct thought-NAZIs “The Green Police” are attempting to satirize.

    Kudos, Audi, you just sold a car.

  19. says

    Like many of the other distinguished commentors, I’m Jewish. Honestly, as Justin said above, the laziness is more offensive than the history of the name.

    Would you see an American campaign tagged with “Slave Drivers” or “Trail of Tears?” Probably not.

    As for the next steps for Audi…yeesh…they are in quite the pickle. They can tweak the messaging to say “Green Cops,” “Eco Police,” or something similar. But, the damage has been done.

    Best advice? Pull the plug, go back to the drawing board and come back with something fresh in 3-6 months.
    .-= Mike Schaffer´s most recent blog post …Tim Tebow & The Football Pulpit =-.

  20. Sean says

    Hey Mike,

    I don’t hear anybody calling for automotive manufacturers to stop using the “SS” designation on Super Sport vehicles, or making a stink about any sports team whose colors might be Red/White/Black, so on and so forth.

    Nobody needs a protest anymore to remind us that slavery and Nazis are bad.

    This is satire.

    I will be the first guy to defend Israel, but this is absurd.

    You’re only here because some idiot “journalist” decided to write an article JUST to get your fur ruffled, otherwise, you’d not have paid it an iota of attention. Don’t be so easily manipulated.

    • says

      Sean – I really hope you weren’t calling Danny an idiot journalist…I respect his opinion and discretion in sharing meaningful information in the world.

      You’re probably right in that I had to find out about this story from someone. But, as a publicist, I can say that’s how the system works. If a reporter didn’t “break” a story, nobody would know about it.
      .-= Mike Schaffer´s most recent blog post …Tim Tebow & The Football Pulpit =-.

    • says

      Sean, I respect your opinion. That said, reading the comments on this post, your opinion is the exception. Most folks who commented here have something to say about this story Danny has brought to our attention.

      IMO, it speaks to a bigger issue that Global Patriot brought up. Audi execs may have thought the exact same thing as you — their reality was that “Nobody needs a protest anymore to remind us that slavery and Nazis are bad.”

      Classic case of measuring to “corporate reality” versus perception. All corps should be measuring to public perception, no matter what they think reality actually is, IMO. Perception is reality, end of story. And the reality here is that Audi’s decision has got people talking.

      So talking about this issue is not really that absurd, is it?
      .-= Justin Goldsborough´s most recent blog post …Are Facebook fan pages the 2.0 Web site? =-.

      • Jay says

        And in defense or Sean, when is the popular opinion the right one? Guide people towards a conclusion and people will follow like lemmings. You see the results in the comments posted above. No thought but the same response repeated over and over again. Did you read Audi’s press release on this issue? I’m sure you have.

    • says

      I’m guessing you mean me, Sean? I only ask as I catch the idiot reference, but I’m far from journalist, quotation marks or otherwise… 😉

      You make a fair point re. the SS connotation. The difference here (at least to me, and, it would seem, a fair few others) is the fact that this is tied specifically to a name mired in historical repulsion. The SS were harsh, but not all supported Hitle’s master plan, as borne out by their assassination attempt on his life, and refusal to march people to their deaths.

      Satire is a great way to sell a product; sweeping over the emotional scars behind the history attached to that satirical approach? Not so much.

      • Niklas says

        I’m sorry, but I can only hope that there’s some misunderstanding here. To say the SS “was harsh, but not all supported Hitler’s master plan” is just historically wrong. The SS had nothing to do with any forms of resistance or with Stauffenberg’s assassination attempt. On the contrary, they crushed the army coup, they conducted the death marches. It is absurd to suggest that the SS, a purely ideological organization, which ran the concentration camps, was somehow less closely connected to the Nazi regime and the Holocaust than the Orpo, the regular German police force, which like all organs of the state did play a role in the persecution of jews, but also included the traffic police. To the vast majority of German speakers “Grüne Polizei” has no Nazi connotation whatsoever(and really, it’s so obscure as a Nazi era term that it’s not even included in the otherwise exhaustive German entry on the Orpo), whereas use of the abbreviation SS is virtually taboo.

        • says

          Hi Niklas,

          You’re correct, my bad – a misunderstanding of a reference library re. the SS and their role. Thanks for jumping in with the info,

          Danny.

            • says

              No Jason, it was misunderstanding of a reference point – there’s a difference.

              By the way, going through your other comments, feel free to attack me as the blogger of the piece, but attack the other commenters and your comments will be deleted. Just a heads up.

  21. says

    Yikes! Maybe a quick renaming to… gosh anything… it’s a funny campaign, but the name has the bile rising in my throat.

    It’s shocking how many people can sit in a room together and be stupid.
    .-= Jessica Gottlieb´s most recent blog post …Jane =-.

  22. says

    Between this and the iPad (which isn’t offensive, just stupid), I wonder if ANYONE is doing due diligence these days. Research, focus groups–certainly SOMETHING should have revealed the connection before launching with such an unfortunate name.

  23. says

    So I’m wondering…what if they did their homework, but thought that a) enough time had passed, or b) the majority of the world wouldn’t know about the reference, or c)the word Green now has a new meaning that transcends any previous usage.

    I’m not saying that any of these scenarios lets them off the hook, but I’m thinking they knew about the reference, yet rationalized this campaign anyway.

    (I only suggest this because I’ve been in executive meetings where the level of “rationalization” is beyond belief…something of a human fail.)
    .-= Global Patriot´s most recent blog post …Supreme Court Decimates Democracy =-.

    • says

      That’s quite possibly what happened, Mark. And you’d have to think that a company as large as Audi has carried out the due diligence needed (or at least made sure their agency of record has). But, again like you say, should this let them off the hook if that’s the case? Doesn’t corporate responsibility come into play at some stage and say, “You know guys, this could be seen as in bad taste. Let’s look at something with less historical pain.”

      Money makes many decisions, but morals make the best ones.

      • Werner says

        I am German and, yes well interesting discussion. For the information of all, it is not so simple as the reference shows.

        Until so far German police has mostly gree uniforms – this is changing due to EU. And may be Audi didn’t use Google as they should have, but, not everybody is permanently thinking of political correctness. Even people of Jewish believe don’t see a Nazi at any corner. And neither do I.

        More on the topic of “Sicherheitspolizei” as it is called in German on http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hauptamt_Sicherheitspolizei.

  24. says

    While most earlier commenters echo your position in this post, I can’t help but feel like a few didn’t quite get it. The issue is not simply about a German car maker’s cutesy ideas. It’s that the idea “hook” has the unfortunate circumstance of holding a secondary meaning, a meaning of significant historical, religious, and political import. I venture to guess few people (irrespective of religious beliefs) are going to weigh the value of cute over the value of a seriously distasteful, indiscriminate faux pas.

    To be sure, mistakes happen. But when you consider the accompanying price tag for creative development/account management/production/etc., shouldn’t some basic Q/A come standard? And considering the project development time for something like this, wouldn’t you say there was plenty of opportunity to do some research?

    It doesn’t matter that Audi didn’t mean to. It doesn’t matter that the Holocost happened a long time ago (in today’s world view). Some subjects are just sacrosanct, and in good taste you don’t go there. Especially if you’re a German company (was their agency tapped out of creative juice?). Was this grievous error made b/c of the fervent need to join the likes of companies with eco-friendly messages? Lame.
    .-= Heather Rast´s most recent blog post …More Than Meets The Eye =-.

    • says

      You make some excellent points, Heather.

      Like you say, this isn’t a campaign that’s happened overnight. There will have been creative briefs, client approval, edits, due diligence, client resubmission, client sign-off, go to market, etc. That’s easily 2-3 months of work. To say that nothing was red flagged during this time seems like a stretch.

      And again, yes, push the envelope, but some topics should remain untouchable, and the murder of more than 6 million people, aided by an organization whose name your creatives didn’t think bore any concerns… not something I’d personally want to touch.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, always appreciated.

  25. EJ says

    Audi’s parent company, Volkswagen, owes its inception of course to Nazi Germany and that is historical fact. While framed as fun, it’s insensitive, particularly to those that survived and are watching the broadcast.

    I’m not sure the campaign hits their market anyway. I love my Audi and they have been doing some fabulous television that translates the soul of the brand. But I think Audi has their pants on the ground with this one.

  26. Elaine Spitz says

    Heather Rast has it down cold, I think. A very unfortunate choice made by Audi. They may be wise, as suggested, to scrap it and offer a mea culpa.

    The K.G.B. Agents search engine and iPad come to mind as other less insensitive yet still very odd choices for naming a new service or product.

  27. says

    I had no idea about this, Danny. Not smart. I see someone losing their job over this one. Info is so readily available now days and all it takes is a search. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Zubair says

    I’m pretty new to the PR industry, in fact I’m still looking for my first PR role but that is one rookie mistake. I learnt in the first of many internships that the key to good PR is all about the research.

  29. says

    Given that the USA has a “Green Police” to police the environment, and the UK also has a “Green Police” – I’m not sure how this can be such a bad thing?

    You’d think if people saw this as an horrible term to use, that major world powers wouldn’t use the name for their own environmental law enforcement.

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Who_are_the_Green_Police

    Maybe they did Google it and saw the same thing I did… a term that no longer has that horrific association and is in use by more than one country, with no negative impact.
    .-= Laurie Pringle´s most recent blog post …Of Fanbois and Fanatics =-.

    • says

      I guess that would depend on who you’re asking, Laurie. The term “Green Police” (while used elsewhere, rightly or wrongly) is strongly associated with the horrors of the Holocaust. Does time make something like that more palpable?

      Would a 9/11 Flying School ad be okay because time has passed? Or a Haiti Swimming Lessons video be suitable in 50 years time? Sometimes there are connections that are worse because of the history involved.

      Audi’s national parentage does, unfortunately, make this more visible. That’s not a slight on Germany, just a simple view that whoever green-lighted the name (no pun intended) has maybe made a mistake, in light of historical connotations.

      • says

        Yes time passing matters. How long will we punish the German people for the sins of people who are no longer alive?

        If using the term Green Police is wrong – then fine, but it should be wrong for everyone, not just for the people of Germany. And if we intend to treat German’s differently for all eternity – maybe it’s time we looked at our own behaviours, bias and attitudes.

        How would you like to be blamed for the sins of your grandparents… and how would you feel about your children being held to a different standard than everyone else, because of their great grandparents actions… and so on, and so forth – for all eternity.

        If Green Police is off limits, then in all fairness you, me and everyone else should be raising hell about the USA and the UK too.
        .-= Laurie Pringle´s most recent blog post …Of Fanbois and Fanatics =-.

        • says

          Hi Laurie,

          I think we’re at crossed wires here. It’s not about “blaming the German people” – and it’s not about “holding grudges on behalf of grandparents”. There’s not a country in the world without a “shameful past”, and more often than not the U.S. and the U.K. are two of the biggest culprits. As a Brit, our colonnial past is nothing to write home about.

          The main question of the post is about a large corporation, research, due diligence and decisions made after that. The unfortunate (for want of a better description) angle is the obvious tie between origin of manufacturer and the name chosen). It’s not a witch hunt of a people.

          Thanks for stopping by and continuing the conversation, it’s always appreciated.

        • says

          Laurie – I think you’re missing the point. It’s not about blame or punishment. It’s simply a matter of being wise when choosing keywords for a social media campaign.

          A German car company needs to be sensitive to the fact that people will ask if they were involved with the Holocaust. The problem today is that Google is completely impartial in the answers it provides for these questions.
          .-= John Haydon´s most recent blog post …How To Use The Q&A Section on LinkedIn to Promote Your Blog (Day 26) =-.

        • Ivan Walsh says

          Laurie,

          You’re right. This is all just a lame excuse to beat someone over the head… while adopting all types of moral posturing.

          Some folks have probably lost their jobs over this because Danny and his merry crew have kicked up a shit storm.

          and these are the same clowns who talk about building trust and charity. Disgusting stuff.

          • says

            Ivan,

            No-one is out to cost anyone their jobs; a question is being asked about research and how brands present themselves. There’s no moral high ground – there’s a question of “was this the right approach given the circumstances.”

            Looking at your website (assuming you’re @ivanwalsh and the site is http://ivanwalsh.com – if incorrect, my apologies), there’s a post about brands and reputation online:

            http://www.ivanwalsh.com/2010/01/howto-build-brand-values-web/#more-3927

            I’m curious what advice you would have given from your social media strategist view? Would you have gone the same route or differently?

      • Suzanne Volinski says

        Danny, I agree with you here. Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds and I think even the decision to use the term “Green Police” in the US is unwise.

        This instance also makes me wonder about the creative process at Audi – the name “Green Police” is not fresh (as noted in your entry and many comments – it’s been used before in a few different ways) and will probably be lumped with all the other green initiatives out there unless they do something really different/new with their campaign. I think it’s time for everyone to break out of this green obsession and find some more creative ways to implement CSR while caring for the environment rather than driving the notion of “being green” into the ground.

      • says

        Once again, Danny, I suggest you scroll up and read my earlier comment. If the nation of Israel’s environmental ministry’s enforcement police are called the Green Police, why would anyone have a problem with the same name anywhere else?

        I think you’re making this into something it’s not, and I don’t understand why.

        • says

          I’m asking it from a PR point of view, with a company’s first main foray into social media, and the lazy research that seems to have taken place, Ari (or the “well, who cares” approach that might be at play from Audi executives). I think the post and comments bear that out.

  30. says

    Had it not been for the IPad and Toyota recall this week, Audi may have seen even more backlash than it got. Thanks for bringing attention to this slipup Danny. Will be interesting to see how they move forward with the Super Bowl campaign.

  31. says

    I believe Audi did their homework, and knew what the name meant. But that just makes it all the more sad.

    And the guy who called Danny an “idiot journalist” – people that resort to name calling… seriously?

    Why bother reading the articles and commenting, if you think the writer is an idiot? – that’s idiocy

  32. says

    I see two sides to this… The first is that I don’t see anything wrong(other than being uncreative) with using Green Police. In modern times almost everyone would associate that with environmentalist police and not even think of the past. The second side is that a company the size of Audi should really have thought a little more about the whole campaign since some people will associate it with the past.

    Funnily enough, Apple isn’t immune to a lack of research when naming a product… Mad TV did a skit about an iPad almost 3 years ago, and its not what apple is selling!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTzhXMbOWHE

  33. Killian Schaffer says

    Enjoying your content Danny.

    I don’t think time heals this wound esp b/c the Holocaust is a time and lesson we shouldn’t forget.

    Genocide is like that.

  34. says

    Hi Danny:
    I’m personally speechless over this to say the least and am very curious about what’s going to happen next. This is why I’m a huge proponent of integrated marketing communications. Something was lost in some area of the marketing department when this campaign was being conceptionalized (beyond just shitty research). Guess the quote “The path to hell is paved with good intentions” is very applicable here.

    They need to fix this and be honest about what the heck they were thinking.
    .-= Anna Barcelos´s most recent blog post …Five Confessions of an Integrated Marketing Communications Marketer =-.

    • says

      Agree with you on the integrated marketing approach, Anna – it seems crazy to think that a single team can handle all aspects of a campaign these days, particularly with the speed in which digital changes.

  35. says

    Wow. I’m obviously late to this party, but thanks for flagging it Mr. Brown. I think I agree with everyone else here that is wondering why on earth the company did not conduct a Google search in advance of the launch. Perhaps they did and didn’t consider it a big deal because it was 60+ years ago? Don’t have any idea. The name of the group isn’t necessarily offensive to me, but the use of it is in very poor taste.
    .-= Chuck Hemann´s most recent blog post …WPP CEO Shares Advertising Outlook =-.

  36. says

    Sorry, I don’t find that convincing. I mean, the Green Police was Germany’s “Ordnungspolizei” during Hitler’s reign. As pretty much every state institution it was somehow involved in all those terrible crimes. But basically it dealt with accidents, crime of all sorts…you know what I mean. Sure, Audi and the agency should have checked it. But don’t make it bigger than what it is. It’s not like calling it the SS. It simply isn’t the same.
    .-= Gerald Hensel´s most recent blog post …Ad spoofs. And now here comes MAFIA WARS. =-.

  37. says

    well- it is safe to conclude that they didn’t do their homework- I suppose the next question is- what do they do about it. For those of us who did not know about the green police prior, it is tempting to ask “is it a big deal?” but the truth is, there are plenty of people who do know who the green police were- and to them it is a big deal, so what will Audi do about this? Do they apologize and make a shift in ad campaigns? Do they proceed and act as if it is not big deal (and risk seeming insensitive), do they keep the underlying premise of the ad campaign and assign another name, the green keepers (something different than green police) etc. I am not a marketer- but I am guessing that today Audi is exploring some options for how to manage this before it gets any bigger. Hopefully their problem solving skills are better than their research skills.

    • says

      From a response point, I’d see three options:

      1. Apologize, say they were unaware of the history, make whatever amends they feel suitable, and take onboard for next campaign.

      2. Apologize, say they were aware but miscalculated the sensitivity that might be around it, make whatever amends they feel suitable, and take onboard for next campaign.

      3. Ignore with the reasoning nothing is wrong.

      The ball’s in Audi’s court (or their agency’s).

      • Lucas says

        Danny, there is nothing to apologize for. You are the one creating the s**t storm not Audi. Yet you claim to be just asking a question from a PR point of view.

  38. says

    Unbelievable. In this age where we have a multitude of tools for research, it seems this key function of good PR was overlooked. I hadn’t heard about this so thanks for bringing it to our attention, Danny.

  39. says

    I find it hard to believe that the marketing team from Audi isn’t aware and cautious of all aspects relating to the Holocaust, Hitler or genocide. I think they decided that ‘green’ has a new meaning today – and took the risk. Personally, on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – I have to say it’s tacky and lazy. They could have spent one more hour coming up with a new name.
    Perhaps Audi is banking on all the conversation this controversy will drum up – but they will certainly lose points on many levels.
    If you believe that all PR is good PR, I think you’re just excusing failure. Everyone makes mistakes. Hopefully Audi will learn from this one.
    .-= Alisha Paul´s most recent blog post …Teen writers: Get your work published with Inkpop =-.

    • says

      When you think of the man hours that would have gone into concept, approval, submission, final design, etc, you do think somewhere it might have been spotted, and alternative looked at (the agency should have spotted).

  40. says

    First in the spirit of full disclosre I want to clarify that I do run a website that centers around Audi and their products and I do know people in their marketing dept and at their American agency who likely created this. I have not spoken to them on this subject. All of that said…

    I have a beef with today’s journalistic and blog environment where comments like the infamous ‘lipstick on a pig’ are blown out of proportion by those who wish to manipulate or make a story out of a non story in order to drive prominence or viewership. I don’t know the author of this piece, but use of salacious words like ‘shitstorm’ in the title are enough to make me further ponder the motivations behind the piece. Audi is a hot property, and German and making a case for its association with the Nazis seems like a great way to drive traffic.

    I think the premise of this report is a total reach. First, the police unit in question (according to Wikipedia and the much-referenced Google) was named the Ordnungspolizei and not the “Green Police”.

    They were called “Green Police” (actually not Green Police but equivalent in German) by the general public of the time because of the color of their uniform. Incidentally, the German police today wear green uniforms and I’d challenge those who insist on seeing a parallel between Audi’s reference and the Ordnungspolizei to walk up to any modern German policeman and also accuse him or her of being a Nazi because he still wears a green uniform? I mean, why not right? How could the German police be so careless, so insensitive?

    In the reality of today’s schema ‘green police’ represents enforcement of environmental laws or rules. That Israel refers to their own environmental unit as ‘Green Police’ is enough for me to end debate about the merits of the term’s must-be ‘Nazi’ ownership. It’s a general term and thus a slippery slope.

    If you’re going to go after Audi (of America BTW, not Audi Germany) for using a general term also loosely associated with the Nazis then why not go after any German entity using any loose association? Nazis also used the colors red and black and the image of the eagle. Should that keep any German from ever using the colors red and black or the Eagle lest he be accused of being a Nazi? Somebody better write a blog post then about the German national soccer team because their red and black uniforms feature a logo with an eagle.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany_national_football_team

    Also, for context, these are teaser videos made to drum up interest in the eventual Super Bowl ad. The ad is known to focus on Audi’s A3 TDI diesel, which gets 42 mpg highway. The ad has not yet been shown publicly and will debut during the Super Bowl, so the actual context of the Green Police or how they play in the commercial remains to be seen.

    The company is a leader in diesel, races it at Le Mans and is also a leader in lightweight production having produced some of their vehicles in aluminum since the 1990s. They have both hybrid and all-electric models in the pipeline that will be for sale on the market within a year and built their first series production electric/diesel hybrid in the 1990s when the Prius was but a sparkle in Toyota’s eye. So yes, they do have green cred.

    • says

      Hi George,

      Thanks for a) the diclosure and b) the thoughtful and in-depth comment, I appreciate both.

      The terminology is simply the way I speak; regular readers of this blog (and connections online) know that I write as I speak. Sometimes that may not be terms people either expect (or want to hear), but it’s simply who I am. It’s no different from me using “shit storm” down the local pub.

      I actually link to the resources you mention, so that people can see the definition behind the Green Police name.

      As the whole post adheres to (and the subsequent comments), this isn’t an “attack” on a country or brand. It’s a question about the merits of the connection between a name, history and the launch of the campaign’s big push (the Auschwitz anniversary). It’s a question about brands in the new digital space today, and how crucial and increasingly important the right strategy is.

      Deliberate or otherwise, brands need to be aware of all possibilities from a new launch or media campaign. There are so many countless examples of poorly executed or implemented social media campaigns that to see a brand as large and respected as Audi make what would seem an ill-conceived decision makes you wonder about the strategy behind it.

      As I mentioned in earlier comments, the real “distaste” will/may come from anyone that knows the reasons behind the name and its history, and has a personal, emotional connect; I’m merely offering a view from a PR and social media/marketing/branding angle.

      Thanks again for joining the conversation, I do appreciate it.

      • says

        Hi Danny, Thanks for the level-headed response. The tough part about today’s media environment is that, as with lipstick on a pig, you are always going to offend someone, somewhere, somehow. I believe, though Wikipedia is highly placed in Google, the suggestion that ‘Green Police’ is a nazi-unique term is a weak one. It is general. That Israel also uses the term is more than enough to make this point. Nazis and the German public of the time used a lot of terms. Should every one be taboo? Where is the litmus drawn?

        I made an assumption about your title choice, and given your response I can logically see how/why you would have used it and that my assumption was more caricature than reality. A similar parallel could be drawn to the subject of your piece.

        Yes, there was such a thing in Nazi Germany as the ‘green police’, and thus an assumption can be made. Given the context though of the ad (A3 TDI and environmental theme), the schema of what ‘green police’ represents worldwide in today’s terms and the fact that the Israelis of all people also use the term, I think a logic dictates there’s no intended reference.

        I don’t know any of the back story on how it was researched, but knowing the context above I wouldn’t have been worried about its use if I were them because the correlation and thus offensiveness is most tenuous.
        .-= George´s most recent blog post …New Driver Trio for the Audi R15 TDI =-.

        • says

          Perhaps Israelis use the term “green police” and if it was Israel who was behind the ad campaign, we’d be having a different discussion, but it’s not, it’s Germany. I think we can make this discussion purely cerebral but the bottom line is, Germany has this past, the term green police is associated with it and given these 2 indisputable facts, perhaps a different ad campaign would have been in order.
          One thing Audi cannot control is the emotional response of consumers. So, we can debate if the connection warrants an emotional response, but the bottom line is Audi don’t get to choose how the public will respond- and given the nature of the ad campaign and the origin of the product (Germany), isn’t this a little like playing Russian roulette- and why would their marketing team want to run this type of risk? Seems like an especially slippery slope to me. I’m confident they have the talent on board to come up with an ad campaign that puts them well out of harms way and sell more cars.

    • says

      Thanks for setting the record that this is an Audi of USA campaign, not an Audi of Germany one. Thus, Danny’s inclusion of Germany in the above post content is factually incorrect and thus the comment backlash is also off-base.

      I’m curious, Danny. If you didn’t mention Germany but state it’s an American campaign, would the feedback be as high? I doubt it.

      • says

        The Super Bowl is global. The Internet (and YouTube) is global. Audi is a German company with international arms (the U.S. being one of them) and customers. Not sure where the facts are wrong, Ari.

        Motrin was for a U.S. campaign but it was questioned internationally; the press release about Jennifer Hudson’s family’s murders and why they may have lived had they had a company’s shotgun rack was for the U.S., but questioned internationally.

        When you advertise online (and offline to a lesser degree), you have to go in with your eyes open that it’s not always localized anymore.

        • says

          The Super Bowl has the perception of being global, but is in fact the championship game of the National Football League, an American entity.

          The Internet is not owned by anyone.

          YouTube is owned by Google, an American company.

          Audi, the point of your article, is also an American company. While Audi AG is German, this campaign — per http://www.audiusanews.com/newsrelease.do?id=1657 — is through Audi of America. Or, do you blame all subsidiary activities with their own leadership structures on the parent?

          Need I say it again? You’re creating controversy which is fine.. but your controversy is factually incorrect.
          .-= Ari Herzog´s most recent blog post …Boost Corporate Branding and Add That Blog Comment =-.

              • says

                If you don’t know if they have a US marketing wing then can you criticize them for not doing their homework?

                The ad is from Audi of America. Most likely it came from Venables Bell & Partners as that’s Audi’s ad agency of record.

                Can you answer a question for me since we’re waxing philosophical. What’s the litmus of offensive association. Nazis used the general term ‘Green Police’ as do the Israelis and nearly everyone else. Should American companies not use any general references for populations we’ve wronged? Better start a letter campaign to Jeep for their Grand Cherokee nameplate or hate on David Hasselhoff because Knight Rider sounds an awful lot like some operatives of the Klu Klux Klan. It all gets kind of silly.
                .-= George´s most recent blog post …New Driver Trio for the Audi R15 TDI =-.

              • says

                I was asking that question tongue in cheek- most Americans don’t make mental notes along the lines of where the marketing office is located- if it’s a Toyota car, then its Japanese, if it’s Audi, it’s German, if it’s Ford, it’s American- you get the point. Perhaps we are now caught in a circular discussion- I think what will break this endless cycle of discussion of tossing the ball back into the others court will be how the public responds when the ad campaign hits. And for that, we will have to wait and see!

            • says

              I agree with Danny. As a global brand, Audi needs to be sensitive to the international ramifications.

              It’s somewhat irrelevant to me that it’s a U.S. campaign: it’s still a German company|brand. And while few or any of this blog’s readers were likely alive during the Holocaust, the repercussions (rightly or not) from WW2 persist. And Audi needs to be smarter in monitoring its global brand.

              Best,
              Daria
              .-= Daria Steigman´s most recent blog post …Are You Plugging Holes or Seeking Solutions? =-.

        • Kit says

          Danny, you’re right – the Super Bowl is global. What’s not global, are the commercials during the Super Bowl. Here in Germany we don’t get to see them during the game – you would have to actively look for them on the internet.

          • says

            Hi Kit,

            That’s true, the main commercial will be for the U.S. TV audience.

            Yet the YouTube viral ones are global, and it was a friend in Soest who sent me the info about the campaign in the first place. Which shows their global reach.

            • says

              Yes, the commercial are played in the US- but, umm, does this mean there are not any Jews in the US that could be offended? Did I miss something?

    • Kit says

      Very well written, George! I’m a German who is quite interested in history but I had never before even heard of the term “Green Police”. I wonder, how many of all the others, who are posting here, have.

      I agree that Germans and German companies worldwide should use special care due to our history (see e.g. the adidas party at a mansion with Nazi symbols in Brazil). Using the term “Green Police” for an imaginary environmental enforcement unit is absolutely harmless.

    • says

      I agree with the last few comments. This criticism seems a little overblown for what is intended to be an ultimately silly, tongue-in-cheek campaign. I think Audi will be just fine.

    • Martin says

      Exactly , who actually knew who the green police were before you read this blog ?. So how many people in America ( country not know for knowing its own history let alone anyone else ) would of have thought of the Holocaust after watching this ad ? – without going to google just to be sure !. I have to say this is the biggest nothing I’ve read so far this year.

  41. says

    From what I have seen the work is so bad and uninspiring it won’t matter. Then again, in the world of viral, you never know. As for the name, if the press makes a big deal of it then it will be an issue. But I doubt otherwise that anyone will take notice. Kudos for calling it out, does point out an incredible insensitivity, especially for a
    German company.
    .-= Edward Boches´s most recent blog post …What you really want to be is a brand that’s loved =-.

  42. says

    So the basic contention is that it’s somehow wantonly insensitive on Audi’s part. I’m of the belief that if the name is proper enough for Israel to use then its content is universal and thus neutral and not insensitive. I somehow doubt Israel would use uniquely and immediately identifiable Nazi terms such as Gestapo or SS. Yet they do use ‘Green Police’. One would think if any country or group had a right to be sensitive on the issue it would be Israel, yet there they are using the name.
    .-= George´s most recent blog post …New Driver Trio for the Audi R15 TDI =-.

  43. John H says

    This isn’t Audi’s fault, nor is it a problem with social media or viral marketing, it’s the fault of the agency who came up with “Green Police”.

    Get rid of them and get a viral marketing agency to do your viral marketing.

  44. says

    I was disgusted to read about this social media campaign and the fact that little thought, if any, and research played a part in creating it. If Audi — and AG — want to save face and stave off any impending PR crisis, it should scrap the campaign now.

  45. ad dude says

    This is not a big deal. Some dumb blogger pretending he’s Woodward and Bernstein and making this into some big scandal, which it isnt. Audi is a quality auto manufacturer, who made a simple mistake, on a phrase that im betting no one else on this site had ever heard of before today. They’ll probably just pull the ad and move on.

  46. Chris says

    There’s been a lot of interesting viewpoints, along with speculation, opinion, and thrash. It’d be nice to get someone involved with the campaign to weigh in and provide some insight that would add inside perspective to the discussion.

    Any chance this could happen? Has this discussion reached anyone on the team–George, would you be able to make this link?

    • says

      Hi there Chris,

      I’ve reached out to both Audi US and the agency contact name on the original press release – as of yet, no reply, which doesn’t say a lot for their brand/campaign monitoring strategy. I’ll be sure to update if I hear anything back.

  47. Anne says

    Well,
    don’t get me wrong, but this just sounds like a bunch of PR-junkies with an overly destructive concern about political correctness. I mean, right, there’s this past – but shouldn’t we rather talk about that this add campaign as a whole is total crap? What does this have to do with Audi – that is to say with DRIVING A CAR or if you want CLEAN DRIVING.
    People watching won’t recognize AUDI let alone get the Nazi take of the GReen police.

  48. Mike Dagge says

    I understand the hard feelings about Nazi Germany BUT please calm down a little. A google search for The Green Police just now – give you these results among others (below).

    If Israel, New York City and Bangalore have no problem with the green police, why should Audi and you?

    The Green Police of the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection http://www.sviva.gov.il/bin/en.jsp?enPage=e_BlankPage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=Zone&enDispWho=green_po&enZone=green_po

    NYC Green Police http://planetgreen.discovery.com/work-connect/nyc-green-police.html

    Bangalore Green Police http://www.thehindu.com/2009/07/21/stories/2009072155010500.htm

    Maybe we can keep the things in perspective AND

    NO: Audi ist not paying or instructing me to post this
    YES: I like Audi cars and drive one

  49. says

    GREAT POST!

    Holy Mutha! It’s outrageous! I can’t add much to the multitude of great comments above… Thanks for pointing this out to me and all of us. I’m as appalled as anyone should be. How can anyone be so daft and get paid so much for it?
    .-= Christina Kingston´s most recent blog post …The Death of Sex =-.

    • says

      Ditto to Ari 100%. I guess it surprises me how little middle ground there is (kind of like politics today). People have come in here with their minds made up and, even given factual information such as Israel’s own use of the term, no one is willing to cede that maybe the sentiment against Audi is overreaction and sensationalism.
      .-= George´s most recent blog post …“Best Cars of 2010”: Wins for Three Audi Models =-.

  50. says

    I can definitely see why folks are in an uproar. With this great little invention called the internet, mistakes like this she not be made. Cover your assets people.
    This is a PR nightmare! Time for some crisis management!

  51. says

    Danny has updated this post. Before commenting about how he’s a Lemming and those of us who felt the news disturbing are also lemmings (and whatever other trash talk you got cooked up) take a look at the actual post and read his update at the bottom.
    .-= Ct Kingston´s most recent blog post …The Death of Sex =-.

  52. says

    I just posted this on Fourtitude. I had access to Audi execs this week and did some inquiry. It’ll help everyone here make a more informed decision as they can now see the other side of the story and it answers Danny’s original question.

    Begin Post…

    Late last week we covered a story about a blogger who equated the ‘Green Police’ theme of Audi’s upcoming Super Bowl ad campaign starring the A3 TDI to a Nazi-era German police unit known as the Ordnungspolizei (translates directly to ‘Order Police’). It seems that a Googling of the term provided the author or his source of the obscure nickname of ‘Green Police’. Given Audi is German and so too were the Nazis, the author drew a comparison suggestion that he believed Audi had used poor judgement or hadn’t researched the term, using the ad either ignorantly or despite any supposed known offense the ad might represent. The story has since run on Autoblog.com and Jalopnik.com, prominent blogs in the auto industry, and has made ripple further on Twitter and amongst blogger Danny Brown’s own readers – many of whom seem to be in the business of PR or social media consultancy and not entirely without interest in the matter. For the record, I write this while at the same time being editor in chief of an Audi-focused online magazine and have my own obvious interest that also comes with a fair degree of expertise with the company in question.

    I have been able to hear Audi’s side of the story and have also previewed the ad in question. The ad won’t air until the Super Bowl but I can give you the story from Audi’s side rather than rushing to judgement and share a basic synopsis of the ad. First, let me start by quoting the question Danny asked.

    “The implications of Audi’s choice of name for their campaign could be huge, especially since Audi is a German company. The first question is obvious – didn’t anyone at Audi’s PR or advertising arm/agency do any research?”

    The short answer to Danny Brown is ‘Yes, they did research it and followed up that research with further due diligence as a result of the story.’ As Audi initially checked background on their ad concept, not one person with whom Audi inquired drew any association with the term ‘green police’ other than the obvious timely reference to environmental matters. To quote Audi representatives “We researched the term. We tested the ad concept with focus groups. We sought input and reaction from key organizations, including the Jewish community, and we sent out a press release that went to thousands of media, and not one reaction.”

    Since learning of the public questioning of Audi’s judgement in the matter both on Twitter and Danny Brown’s blog, Audi of America immediately consulted several notable and prominent Jewish community resources including the Anti Defamation League and the Holocaust Museum. Further, I am told by Audi that the holocaust museum went further with the inquiry by asking the opinion of several holocaust survivors. Rather than an anonymous Google search or user-edited Wikipedia reference Audi took the time to go to those who could directly speak for the Jewish community and not one reference felt the term ‘Green Police’ insinuated anything other than environmental awareness enforcement. It’s been mentioned several times over during this debate that Israel themselves have an environmental unit known as the ‘Green Police’ as do many other countries.

    From everything I have seen, Audi takes this matter very seriously though I suspect they have largely stayed away from responding to it so as not to give it any more merit than it is due. The reality of the situation is that there was no malicious intent, no wanton action, no lack of care in deciding upon the campaign.

    Danny Brown mentioned his attempt to make contact with Audi of America. My source says they have no record of a Danny Brown attempting to make contact for a response. The only inquiry that came through via the usual PR channels arrived through contacts listed on the original press release and that inquiry was from Ari Herzog, a commenter on Brown’s blog who originally argued against the merits of the post based on Israel’s own ‘Green Police’ unit. Brown may have attempted contact but Audi is unaware of what method he took and would have known had it come in the expected PR channels a member of the media like Danny Brown would be expected to use.

    Yesterday Danny also responded to a reply on the subject posted by Audi on Autoblog.com. It reads…

    “Update February 01 2010: Audi has issued a response to the post, which you can find here. While their response is sound, they may also wish to look at this resource from the Jewish Virtual Library vaults.” (Ling Above in Danny’s Post)

    I just did my own quick search and the word ‘Green’ is nowhere on the linked page.

    Tonight I was also able to preview the upcoming Super Bowl ad. In it are the same Green Police comedic enviro cop unit as the preview videos. The ficticious group of slightly inept environmental do-gooders is used to show that simply being green or environmentally aware isn’t always easy to determine. Toward the end of the ad there is a product shot of the already confirmed Audi A3. The message is not one of violence and simply one meant to raise awareness of Audi’s TDI Clean Diesel movement and that it is one way you can be green. The ad is light-hearted and, in my opinion, rather innocently plays at the environmental theme.

    Will this post end the discussion on the matter? Likely not. World War II was a tragic portion of world history and far be it from me to tell someone what should or shouldn’t offend them. My hope though is that people will see both sides of this story and perhaps be a little less judgmental about a company and line of automobiles for which I have a lot of respect and share a strong affinity. I know these people. These are good and thorough people who’ve created one of the best marketed brands in the industry through as much attention to detail in marketing as they also instill in their cars. I find it unfortunate that many without any knowledge of the situation and a tenuous association based on a wikipedia entry would pass judgement and I do hope that this post will at least educates those so that they may make an informed and intelligent decision of their own.
    .-= George´s most recent blog post …Audi Sport Plans R15 "plus" Test Run in Le Mans Series Round at Le Castellet =-.

    • says

      Hi George,

      Thank you for the reply and Audi’s response. I’ll quote and reply as per you have, to answer your points:

      “We researched the term. We tested the ad concept with focus groups. We sought input and reaction from key organizations, including the Jewish community, and we sent out a press release that went to thousands of media, and not one reaction.”

      Fair response. Yet one thing stands out; if there was no connection made prior to the link to the historical connotation of the name Green Police, why was anyone of the Jewish community approached for an ad about the environment? Wouldn’t a community – in this case, Jewish – only be approached if a company was aware of a potential hiccup? And I’m a little surprised (as were many other commenters who asked the same question) how it wasn’t spotted during initial research when a simple Google search sees it sat at #3. I think this answer actually raises more questions. Or maybe that’s just me 😉

      With reference the Google, wikipedia, research, etc angle on the Green Police, my original link for reference was to the article by the editor of the award-winning Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust, published in 1990. I think that adds some credence to the connection.

      From everything I have seen, Audi takes this matter very seriously though I suspect they have largely stayed away from responding to it so as not to give it any more merit than it is due. The reality of the situation is that there was no malicious intent, no wanton action, no lack of care in deciding upon the campaign.

      Audi’s take on the matter (as far as intent goes) was never in question; what the post raised was whether it was about to cause an issue, and how in-depth the initial research was. I believe that such an important campaign (Audi’s first real foray into social media) would definitely have stringent and extensive research; which again just comes back to the question, “How was Google result #3 missed?”. Even just highlighting it to an exec responsible for the green-lighting of the campaign for clarification; yet Audi’s response is that nothing popped up, which is why there was no need to worry about a connection.

      My source says they have no record of a Danny Brown attempting to make contact for a response.

      Initially I could find no information for contact on the press release sharing the news (there wasn’t one on the release I read), so I went via the Contact option on Audi’s website, with a link to the story and full contact info for me. Ari actually BCC-included me on his email to Kevin Ray at PMKBNC (kudos to Ari for getting the email) and I then sent an email of my own on January 29.

      Yesterday Danny also responded to a reply on the subject posted by Audi on Autoblog.com. It reads…

      “Update February 01 2010: Audi has issued a response to the post, which you can find here. While their response is sound, they may also wish to look at this resource from the Jewish Virtual Library vaults.” (Ling Above in Danny’s Post)

      I just did my own quick search and the word ‘Green’ is nowhere on the linked page.

      That is correct – the piece uses the official name for the police arm that were known by the term Green Police (as referenced in my post). However, as mentioned by more than a few people in the comments section of this post, they are one and the same. This article on DailyFinance.com offers more details on the connection between the two.

      I find it unfortunate that many without any knowledge of the situation and a tenuous association based on a wikipedia entry would pass judgement and I do hope that this post will at least educates those so that they may make an informed and intelligent decision of their own.

      Obviously the YouTube ads are part of a bigger picture, and one that only a few will see prior to the Super Bowl slot. However, the original link is more than a “tenuous Wikipedia link” (as I highlight above), and it’s not passing judgement on the videos and choice of name; it’s questioning the research and awareness (or lack of) and what internal discussions were had (if any).

      One of the key things that has been noticed (and was talked about this evening on Twitter in the #pr20chat forum) is Audi (or their agency of record)’s response. There have been numerous examples of situations where a brand’s campaign tactics have either been questioned or raised curious glances; some have been responded to well, some not so much (the Motrin Mom example is a good one on how even a couple of days is a long time in social media).

      For such an important part of Audi’s 2010 promotional push, their (or their agency’s) reticence to at least acknowledge the questions being raised in the comments is questionable. And this isn’t from a “listen to me” angle. Before Audi’s statements elsewhere, there had been over 100 comments on this post alone and more than 300 retweets. Not to mention the discussions online.

      I’m in the comms and social media industry, and have been for more than 15 years (as have the majority of the commenters here). Even a simple “We’re aware of your questions and are/will be looking into it” would show that the company is listening to what’s being said about their brand. As it is, there were various reasons suggested as to the lack of comment (“not to give it more merit than it is due” is a mistake many companies new to the social scene make, unfortunately).

      Audi’s response (as I mention in the update) is sound. Their explanation of their post-this article actions is also sound. However, as I mention, there are still some questions that may be new due to the response.

      Again, as I mentioned on Twitter tonight, George, I do appreciate all the effort put in by you and for sharing it here.

      Best,

      Danny.

  53. Duncan A. says

    What I can say is that your post is rabble rousing and the worst kind of blogging. I’m a jew – my family is jewish – we don’t associate the term Green Police with Nazis. I’ve read the sparse post. Its easy to pick a fight and use sensitive material but puhlease. Its the green police. Its Audi of America. NOT Audi of Germany. Big difference. You are the one that has made a serious lapse that will hopefully negatively impact your business. Clearly you dont research things. Before writing this – how could you not have done more research. You’re rubbish mate. You have no ethos.

    I will never read your blog again.

    • says

      I recognize that I run the risk of this comment being moderated, since I am about to call out another commenter, but I am o.k. with that.
      Duncan, regardless of your opinion about this piece, and whether you believe it merits your time and attention is certainly your opinion and you are more than entitled to it.
      Comments like yours, however, are difficult to regard with any respect. Danny, I give you props for the professional manner that you have maintained, especially when dealing with commenters who have made the choice to check their professional hat at the door. It is so much easier to give credence to a comment that takes issue with what you say when it is couched in discourse that seeks to explore ideas, debate viewpoints, offer an alternate view. This is why your readers will continue to come back to your blog and this is why you have likely experienced an increase in blog readership. You have been willing to put your ideas out there, take criticism and frequent bashing all while maintaining your professional demeanor and respecting the dignity of everyone who has posted here. Kudos to you!

      • says

        Amelia, this is beautifully said and I agree with you wholeheartedly regarding Danny’s character and professionalism in handling the vitriol of the anonymous characters (trolls) above.

        Danny shows nothing but grace and unlike many other bloggers he allows an open comment section without strict moderation, without silencing or excessively weeding out the bad apples. He turns the apples into pie. Okay, not pie, but you know what I mean. Or maybe not. Forget the pie.

        Great comment Amelia. If this particular blog out of the numerous others that Danny has posted causes someone to never come back, so be it.
        .-= Ct Kingston´s most recent blog post …The Death of Sex =-.

    • says

      @ Duncan. Hi Duncan. As I’ve mentioned throughout the comment thread, I certainly carried out research both for and after the post (and following the response from Audi of America). This is shown in the updated links, not to mention all the comments I’ve made across the web on various blogs that both support this blog and Audi’s take.

      However, obviously you have your own viewpoint and that’s the whole point of opening a discussion – so people can share their take. Yours is clear, and thank you for any previous reading of this blog you’ve done.

      @ Amelia and @Christina – I just wanted to say thank you to both of you. I appreciate your support and continued friendship, and I think this is a prime example of why having open comments works. Community comes in many shapes and sizes, and I’m glad you’re both part of this one. :)

  54. says

    yes, research is VERY important, but i don’t think the historical relevance of “green police” is offensive to the average person as is the nannystate portrayed in the audi commercial, or as tasteless as FLOtv’s use of presidential assassinations in their commercials.

    • says

      I didn’t see the FLOtv example, Scott. Is this a cable or online channel? Whatever it is, that does sound pretty below the acceptable belt.

    • says

      Possibly Jamie. If so (and it was deliberate as opposed to the non-awareness Audi of America say), then it seems a pretty dangerous road to travel with the potential backlash it could have.

  55. tony says

    Here is one for ya Danny boy. I have never been so offended by something on TV EVER!!!!!!!! So much so I was suppose to pick up a TT for my daughter as a belated birthday present. But after watching the Nazis on TV during the superbowl I will instead demand my security deposit back and will be getting in touch with corporate to express outrage.
    In case you have not noticed the neocon fascist global elite are trying to install a New World Order and the Police are a Very real Concept in the USA right now.

    so who in the F@)!K do you think you are to pull this kind of crap. I promise I am not the last American offended by this. Get ready to lose lots of business and I think it is time for a global boycott on the Nazis audi and Danny boy.

    • says

      A global boycott on me as well, Tony? I better start stocking up on the tinned food 😉

      I was watching the #brandbowl feed on Twitter last night, and noticed this post received a huge spike in traffic after the commercial aired. Seems a lot of folk were Googling the term, as well as discussing numerous posts around the web that had looked at the name used by Audi of America. Many were in the same camp as you – they felt the ad was too close to the knuckle and promoted fascism.

      Be interesting to see any metrics on the success of the slot.

      Cheers for stopping by, appreciate it.

  56. Ing says

    Audi owes NO ONE especially none of YOU an apology for this brilliant ad. The global warming freaks are the new totalitarians, as some of your posts and the recent global warming East Anglia scandal show.
    “Jewish people should be given free Audis” etc.
    Right, because we all have a “right” to extort luxury cars as penance for being offended (the near-constant state of the leftist). The proper response to Audi’s ad is to go buy two of them, then email a photo to every anti-Audi poster.

  57. Paul says

    Outside of Israel no one knows that the Green Police is the law enforcement agency for environmental regulations in that country.
    When I heard the term Green Police in the Audi commercial during the superbowl I instantly recalled everything I’d ever read about the Green Police of Nazi Germany and Nazi occupied Holland and of all the otrocities that they committed.
    Audi needs to pull that commercial and hope that this all goes away quickly.
    People need to let Audi know that this nonsense will not be tolerated.

  58. Erik says

    Talk about making a big deal out of nothing. I watched the ad and nowhere did i see a connection to the nazi era. If anything the message of the ad was anti fascism. Some of you need to check your satire meter because it seems to be broken.

  59. says

    The Audi 2010 (ticker: XETRA: NSU.DE) (that car) Super Bowl commercial that depicted a “green” police state is an insult. It is not even funny considering the recent events that have led to the erosion of American’s personal liberties.

    I have not had a desire to own “that car”; however, considering the tone of “that car’s” recent commercial, I can say with 100 percent certainty that I will NEVER EVEN CONSIDER buying “that car”!

    I will communicate this opinion to people I meet during the course of my business and will be sure “that car” maker’s attitude toward their potential customers is known.

  60. says

    There was never any “green” police in the Nazi party.
    The Nazi appropriated the back to nature movement in the 30’s… yes.
    But it was called something else.
    The Reich Agency for Nature Protection
    and The Reich Nature Protection Law of 1935.
    Take the bus, ride a bike, walk! Hitchhike! Whatever you do, just don’t buy an Audi, not after seeing these obscene and offensive TV spots!

  61. Chris says

    Given the hullabaloo here, I perked up when the Audi ad came on. I thought it was much better than I expected, given the teaser online videos, and despite the obvious tongue-in-cheekness, I thought it was a little too cheesy.

    USA Today readers don’t have the same tastes as me, since they ranked it sixth best: http://www.usatoday.com/money/advertising/admeter/2010-02-07-results-chart_N.htm

    I’m mildly amused at the comments here about not buying an Audi based on this single ad. Your call, of course, and your reasons why/why not you’d buy any particular product, but to base a car purchasing decision on a TV ad? Wow. I’m impressed at the power you’re giving advertising.

  62. GaryUS says

    I appreciate your story here, Danny. I wasn’t involved in the pre-Super Bowl (following the campaign or reading your post)hype for the program. So I saw the commercial “blindly” during it’s run on the Super Bowl. I enjoyed it’s tongue-in-cheek humor and felt it was poking a bit of fun at the whole green movement. That being said, I have heard a lot of commentary post-airing and must admit, I haven’t heard any controversy surrounding the Nazi connection. Just both sides arguing over who’s on the wrong side of this eco-debate. I only say that as an outsider looking in and not debating in this echo chamber (not to offend here – lack of a better term). I live just outside of Manhattan and work in the New York area, so I felt that I should just post this for you. It’s still an interesting take, and not one that should be taken lightly particualarly from a PR stance. I’m also noticing, though, that people are just getting fed up with PC commentary (again not from this venue but more from the talking heads on TV and radio – and Washington) on what’s proper and improper to talk about – maybe that’s carrying over to this debate? I don’t know. Keep up the good work.

    • says

      Hey there Gary,

      Thanks for stopping by, fella. I agree – sometimes points that deserve to be heard (and I’m not putting this post in there – just using a generic example) often disappear due to apathy over “argument for argument’s sake”.

      It’s a shame, as I’ve seen some terrific points of view over a great many topics shuffle out of view, simply because the topic has been covered to death, and not always in an open manner.

      RE. the Audi campaign, it was interesting to see it voted both best and worst of SuperBowl – guess it’s one of those “no middle ground” moments. And that’s not even taking into consideration the other points of view around it… 😉

      Again, thanks for stopping by and offering your view, much appreciated.

  63. Bakkerst says

    in comment to the author,

    I think you are overestimating things here.
    i quickly read through the comments and noticed you are originally from Europe, i am just curious as to which part you are from?

    I am from the Netherlands, and currently live a stones throw distance from the German border, know a lot of German people and come there quite often.

    i might come as a suprise across the ocean, but i perfectly understand that there where no Redflags from the Audi team. Come on, the regular german police are all dressed in green, drive in green cars (colour, not engine wise) and are known as “die Grünne” which basically meanse “the green guys..”

    To me it sounds like someone on the other side of the atlantic is trying hard to make Audi look bad here.
    If you would have done a bít more research you would have known this.

    check out the link:
    http://pit90.pi.ohost.de/Bilder/Polizei/BMW-Polizei-Touring-525d-_253.jpg

    • says

      Hi Bakkerst,

      I’m from Edinburgh, Scotland originally (only moved to Canada in 2006); have numerous friends in Germany (a few who are aware of the historical Green Police as well as the others); and spent a year studying in Bonn.

      Research is always carried out, and the fact that so many other publications have gone even deeper into the topic shows it’s not just “someone from the other side of the Atlantic” that’s looking at the behind-the-scenes of the Super Bowl primer ads.

      Cheers for dropping by, appreciate it :)

      • Bakkerst says

        i understand that you have done research, but in this modernday context, why all the fuzz? the germans don’t seem to care, the german police is still in green. and if anyone objected to that, surely we would have noticed a change somewhere the last 65 years?

        i meant, and mean, no offence but it just looks, sounds and feels like causing rumours for the rumours. i would be very interessted to know where these link to the old german green police first hit the general public.

        and why are so many americans obviously so offended, or agitated by something that has not affected them in any way in this time before? if they thought the idea of police dressed in green and adressed as “green police” why did they not make this clear earlier? the Israeli/jewish community doesn’t seem to care much, the germans don’t care. why do americans care? it does not, and has not affected them?

        • says

          Hi again Bakkerst,

          There will always be “sides” that care, and those that don’t. The original post was (and remains) a question about research and decision-making; the comments and additional posts are points of view. Obviously many people do care and as mentioned, there are things that time doesn’t dull.

          You obviously are on one side of the discussion, many others are on the other side. That’s the beauty of open discussion.

  64. alexander Finn says

    I don’t care if two Jewish people say this is ad is not offensive. I’m sure their were Jewish leaders supportive (of you know whom).
    The ad campaign is some strange propaganda message in line with a current worldwide political movement of Global Warming/ Carbon Tax. That, by the way was the genesis of the Nazi Party, and the Communist party. Yeah, that’s right….both sides were funded by the same people. This is a fact, that can be easily read in the Library of Congress. You can just look up”trading with the enemies act”, and cross reference Prescott Bush. Even without history knowledge, people can smell B.S., that is why these ads are going to continue offending people…

  65. Pego says

    Gag, this nasty chunky ad is still making the rounds… Ya know? You missed the correlation between Audi’s Green Police ad and all the previous creepy ads from the brief Electric Car era, where car companies used bizarre, unpleasant ads to “Unsell” a great group of zippy autos that would have helped prevent the current global urgency. Not to mention a new war. Audi’s hefty diesel SUV is not really *that* green and this creepy ad is shaped perfectly to target middle-aged white men and get them to jerk that knee on something. This ad will only attract people who actually hate environmental care, don’t understand the correlation between environmental abuse and illegal immigration or increased taxes, but still wanting to grab a tax break. This smells like anti-green propaganda, not sales. The target is Teabaggers. Audi and all the rest could trot electric cars off the factory rack within months, which would get over 3 times the mileage. The lack of engine vibration in battery-run autos would also prevent considerable wear and tear on the vehicle and the ensuing repair bills we have to pay.

    Personally, I have to think that fewer replacement part sales have to affect how totally auto and oil are married to each other. But paying to fix your SUV doesn’t make you happy or rich. http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/07/25/paul.commentary/

  66. ge says

    Is Audi part of the new Nazi party? Does Audi really believe in Fascism? I ask because of the propagandized ‘Green” belief that Audi has in regard to the environment. Is Germany becoming a Fascist State once again? Attempting to re-invent the Fourth Reich under the guise of Climate Policy? Is Audi USA run by hateful Anti-Americans and looking to Europe for some sort of utopia? Using propaganda that citizens will be arrested for using incandescent bulbs and plastic bags is the same as what the 1939 Nazi’s did to the Jews. Is this what Audi is all about? I believe that a Boycott on Audi is now the only way to stop this evil movement to a one world government and control. The Fourth Reich must never be allowed to rise, not as long as free thinkers take a stand and battle the evil that is Fascism, Socialism and Marxism.

  67. says

    For a company such as Audi naming their campaign after a campaign responsible for the execution of millions of Jews in the Holocaust of the Second World War is pathetic.
    Wont be surprised if they have serous backlash and that too from their own country men.

  68. burns.james13 says

    <a href=”http://www.wholisticmedical.co.uk”>Holistic Therapy London</a> Is Audi part of the new Nazi party? Does Audi really believe in Fascism? I ask because of the propagandized ‘Green” belief that Audi has in regard to the environment.

  69. Holistic Therapy London says

    Is Germany becoming a Fascist State once again? Attempting to re-invent the Fourth Reich under the guise of Climate Policy? Is Audi USA run by hateful Anti-Americans and looking to Europe for some sort of utopia?

  70. says

    The Green police is about as empathic as Nike’s “Incubus” sports shoes were. The problem with all these advertisement and branding gaffes is: too little education. That cannot be remedied, at least not under five years of hard learning. But: one could AT LEAST, given today’s search possibilities, do a search prior to using ANY expression/term in advertising. That’s not too much to ask.

Trackbacks

Comments