“What if technology worked in harmony with nature?” : Imagining climate change through Prius advertisements

in Organization, 20 (5)

Garland, Jennifer ; Huising, Ruthanne ; Struben, Jeroen

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In this article we examine the marketing representations of the Toyota Prius, the first ‘green’ mass-produced automobile. Drawing on an interpretive analysis of Prius print advertisements in Canadian publications between 2006–2011 and a matched sample of other automobile advertisements, we observe how the Prius advertisements invoke imagination and how this process is channelled, via the integration of text and images offered in the advertising space, to particular themes and ideas. Through the ... use of an ambiguous system of signs, audiences are invited to imagine and thereby co-create the significance of hybrid electric vehicles. Three areas of imagining are emphasized by the advertisement structure—nature, harmony and agency—and we analyze these imaginings as potential moments of knowledge creation about climate change. We examine how the activity of imagining in relation to these three areas influences viewers’ knowledge and perception of climate change as well as their sense of responsibility for anthropogenic climate change. We discuss the consequences of using ambiguous messages to promote socially and politically charged products for consumers’ understanding and imagination.

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