Matthew McConaughey Doesn’t Want You to Hug Trees, Just Drive a Lincoln

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I can’t tell if a recent Matthew McConaughey Lincoln ad is really meant to be taken seriously (or just seriously sell cars). It seems like a Saturday Night Live spoof at first. I checked to make sure it wasn’t actually Saturday night as I watched.

It’s not about huggin’ trees

Matthew McConaughey stares off into the distance and philosophizes how life is all about balance – finding that “sweet spot.”

With a grove of trees in the background, McConaughey, looking all mysterious and wise, intones “It isn’t about huggin’ trees.” As shot widens to show him leaning against a Lincoln MKZ hybrid he continues, “It’s not about being wasteful, either…”

We then see McConaughey driving on an empty freeway toward the shining city on a hill of Los Angeles illuminated in the distance, and he brings it home:

“You just gotta find that balance where takin’ care of yourself…takes care of more than…just yourself.”

That’s what happens when you buy a Lincoln hybrid, you take care of more than yourself. “That’s the sweet spot.”

In my opinion, this sort of ad isn’t nearly the level of greenwash than what Mazda did by co-opting Dr. Suess’ The Lorax to sell the CX-5 SUV with an absolutely meaningless “Certified Truffula Tree Seal of Approval.” The Lorax was introduced as a means of introducing children to environmental issues in the 1970’s. It seems pretty cynical to use a child’s tale of environmental awareness to sell an SUV.

Lincoln is much more subtle. Frankly, the ad is more about McConaughey and figuring out who the hell he’s talking to than it is to promote a blatant greenwashed environmental message.

Having your cake and eating it too

Certainly Lincoln is on to something. Apparently, the series of ads featuring McConaughey’s mysterious ramblings to himself has boosted sales by as much as 25 percent. A scan of the ads on Lincoln’s YouTube channel shows both men and women swooning Matthew McConaughey. “I want one!” exclaims one guy (I assume he meant the MKZ). Sellin’ cars, baby.

Yet, it’s clear that we still don’t get it. I can imagine how the ad VPs at Lincoln struggled with trying to sell the advantages of a hybrid vehicle without making it sound like a bunch of tree-hugging hippie environmentalist claptrap.  After all, it’s not about hugging trees, is it? It’s a car, albeit one with respectable gas mileage.

I hate to be the downer here, but it is kinda about hugging trees, or however you want to characterize the idea of being environmentally aware of our consumer choices. One comment among the many adoring fans on the YouTube channel wrapped it up fairly succinctly:

…nice effort, but big business is still just mocking and manipulating humanity

The power of advertising

We don’t need to get into a discussion about whether all big business is “evil.” Got an iPhone? ‘Nuff said. My point is that ads like this, if very subtly, discount the true environmental message while at the same time take advantage of it. Whether it a Toyota Prius, a Chevy Volt, a Lincoln MKZ or any other hybrid or electric vehicle, it’s still a car. Ideally, we could get by with public transit and a car sharing service, but it just isn’t practical for most. Nonetheless, why not use the most efficient model that meets our needs?

I’ll admit this commercial is certainly better than most of the car commercials I see on television. But the subtle messaging given from a hunky, popular cult figure masks the reality that using any car is mostly helping ourselves, not anyone else.


Another take on the Matthew McConaughey Lincoln Ad: Walking hand in hand to extinction


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