Kia 'saves' sea turtles in blatant — and lame — greenwashing commercial

Kia 'saves' sea turtles in blatant — and lame — greenwashing commercial
Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) looking around, on the sand of Turtle Beach, north shore Oahu, Hawaii, image via Wikimedia Commons.

Did you know that if you drive a SUV really fast across a beach that you, too, can save nesting sea turtles? That is, as long as the SUV is a 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro SUV driven by a long-haired, handsome, dark, caring environmentalist.

Quite a 40-second commercial Kia has put together.

Everything in “Beachcomber” is pitch perfect, from the cloying piano soundtrack and the clever driver sweeping the sands free of trash, to the money shot of turtles—adult and their irresistible babies—returning from the ocean to lay their precious eggs.

Let’s set the scene in this classic example of green-washing. The commercial opens on the beach with our hero—for giggles, let’s call him Jake—hard at work assembling a rake-like contraption. The sun is setting and light is golden and lazy, yet Jake is in a hurry. Why? We don’t know yet.

Jake then gets behind the wheel of his shiny new Kia and pounds the pedal to the metal. Our man does donuts in the sand as his clever invention scoops up all the trash on the shore. This begs the question: Why does he need to drive so recklessly? Good question. Perhaps to show how responsive his SUV is in off-road conditions? And what kind of an environmentalist tears up a pristine beach?

As someone who has spent way too much time slouched on the couch in front of a television set watching shows I can no longer remember, let me interject some general observations regarding automobile commercials. SUVs are always driven at breakneck speeds through snow, fragile streambeds and mountain roads with sheer drop-offs and blind corners. Absolutely no one I know does this. Nor should you.

And have you noticed that every single road—in the country or in the city—that these vehicles travel on are empty? Just how does that work in say, rush hour in Chicago or Los Angeles?

Enough overthinking. Back to Jake and his trusty rake. Look at what our man has accomplished. Because he cares more than us deadbeats he has swept up all of the garbage! We witness his commitment to putting an end to pollution as he neatly places the detritus in a plastic (!) bag for dutiful delivery to his local recycling center, where it will probably end up in a landfill somewhere. But let’s not think of that. Instead, let us arrive at the realization with stunning clarity that all of this could only have been accomplished through the selfless endeavors of a committed out-of-control NASCAR-wannabe behind the wheel of 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro SUV. God bless him.

Wait, there’s more! Suddenly it becomes clear why Jake when through all this trouble, perhaps sacrificing his plant-based supper and interrupting his hot yoga class, to do the work that we should be doing…instead of sitting on our double-wides watching this ad.

Cue the sea turtles. As the sun sets in brilliant rays of red and orange over the ocean the terrapins make their way from the water to lay their eggs on, well, the very beach that Jake just combed. What timing, eh? Call it a shell game. Just think: if our man had roared across this habitat just a few minutes later he would have flattened the creatures like so many soda cans on the freeway and his courageous act would have gone for naught.

Regarding automobile commercials: please stop thinking logically. Check your brain at the door and simply bask in the warm emotional glow of ethereal music and soft-lit images. Don’t be a cynical jerk who cannot appreciate SUVs as the antidotes to climate change. I mean, what is wrong with you?

As the turtles slowly plod their way to safe harbor we have the shot of our dreamy pal Jake smiling with the self-satisfaction of a man who knows he has done good for the planet. Look at me he is saying. Am I not pretty special? He sits in a meditative pose watching this miracle of nature unfold spotlighted by the intense LED lighting of his 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro SUV. Can turtles blink?

As the shot pans out over the horizon the slogan “Multi-terrain AWD mode” appears. Get it? Turtles can overcome any terrain because they have all wheel drive. Or something.

Then comes the kicker, the dramatic moment that will compel all of us (those of us who care about the environment, that is) off our Lazy Boys and run to our nearest KIA dealership. Dozens of baby turtles, miraculously on the same day, are now waddling to the ocean to begin their long and perilous life’s journey. As Kia itself says this is a “movement that inspires.”

I don’t know about you, but I feel better already.

Stephen J. Lyons is the author of five books of essays and journalism. His most recent book is "West of East."

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