The Ad Council brought us a new ad campaign the other day: the Energy Hog. It appears that energy is being wasted and President Bush has finally decided enough is enough. Decisive action needed to be taken, so the Ad Council, having done a fine job in the past with Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog, unveiled a new character for the darker side of the twenty-first century. Actually, they’ve outdone themselves and given us not one, but eight new characters.
Unlike the friendly bear and crime dog, this new bunch does not coax our inner saint into preventing us from wrecking the world around us. These guys mean business–dressed in black leather, with punk hairdos, shades, facial hair, and other anti-social anomalies. They maraud and waste energy, taking long showers and getting in your way as you innocently try to lay down some attic blanket.
Now, I’m not planning on taking a poke at the Energy Hogs or the fine people who created them. There are plenty of others standing in line to do that. Truth be told, you’ve got to like any ad campaign that comes complete with a web site where kids can learn about the importance of window caulk. I probably didn’t learn the truth about window caulk until I was fourteen years old, and I had to pick it up on the streets.
My problem with the Energy Hogs is that, unlike the older characters I mentioned, these guys are negative stereotypes, presented in a negative way. Smokey wore a ranger hat and taught us how to not burn down trees. That was inspirational for kids in the 1960s, but appealing to the good angels sitting on our shoulders is far too twentieth century for the kids of today. The Energy Hogs come at us like a street gang, which the Ad Council obviously means to be scary, but what they fail to grasp is that kids today find that lifestyle alluring.
I’m not trying to say that the average kid living in the suburbs has a desire to deal drugs and spray innocent moms and children with gunfire. At least, I hope not. Similarly, the average kid growing up in the inner city, where gangs are a part of the environment, is probably more worried about avoiding them than emulating them. That’s not the point. Kids love to rebel–a fact of life which is a lot older than anyone reading this. If “gangsta” rappers and video games like Grand Theft Auto have demonstrated anything in the last few years, it’s that the grab-what-you-can, give-nothin’-back attitude is something that modern kids find attractive, even if it’s a little scary.
With that in mind, I would like to propose the following change to the Energy Hogs: Turn them into the good guys. Instead of frightening young children with their wasteful ways, they should be beating the living tar out of people who leave the TV on for their pets. Instead of peering into un-caulked windows, they should be shattering them and stealing DVD players. The Hogs’ leader, the Boss, who looks kind of like the biker love-child of Dick Cheney and Miss Piggy, already has the sort of scary charisma that could get children to turn in their no-good, non-recycling parents to the Department of Energy or SWAT or whoever handles such things.
In fact, I’d take the whole campaign one step further. Instead of the Energy Hogs being characters in a game on a web site, let’s make them real. We can solve unemployment and save the environment at the same time. I envision a day when reformed gang members, dressed as giant pigs, stand at every street corner, waiting for someone to drive by in a Hummer. First offense, they surround the thing and rip out its battery cables. Second offense, they brand an Energy Star logo to the driver’s forehead. In the unlikely event that the person driving the Hummer actually needs it for something other than ferrying groceries, we’ll grant dispensation if the vehicle has mud anywhere on it.
Now that’s a conservation program I can support.