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SUVs - part of the axis of evil?
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SUVs - part of the axis of evil?
Jan 17, 2003, 12:08
By Gina Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A new front opened in the U.S. "War on Terror" on Wednesday as newspaper columnist Arianna Huffington and three Hollywood pals launched a TV ad campaign to stop Americans from driving SUVs because the gas-guzzling cars inadvertently aid the country's enemies.

In two spots scheduled to begin running on Sunday, Huffington and friends, collectively known as The Detroit Project, plant the idea that driving the mammoth and hot-selling vehicles is unpatriotic.

The ads, which will appear through Friday in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington D.C., parody the government's public service campaign against drug-sponsored terrorism, and aim to kindle public demand for tougher fuel efficiency.

"The goal of the campaign is not to demonize people who drive SUVs," Huffington said. "We want to point out how our driving habits at home are fueling oil money to Saudi Arabia."

One spot features a hapless SUV driver named "George" pumping gas into his vehicle while an oil company executive steps into a limousine and a group of turban-wearing soldiers fire automatic rifles into the air.

"This is George," a child says in a sing-song voice. "This is the gas that George bought for his SUV. This is the oil company executive that sold the gas that George bought for his SUV. These are the countries where the executive bought the oil, that made the gas that George bought for his SUV. And these are the terrorists who get money from those countries every time George fills up his SUV."

"Oil money supports some terrible things. What kind of mileage does your SUV get?" the ad concludes.

In a series of close-ups, the second ad explores the purported consequences of buying foreign oil, juxtaposed with excuses people make for buying SUVs: "I helped hijack an airplane." "I like to sit up high." "I helped blow up a nightclub." "It makes me feel safe." "I sent our soldiers off to war."

"What is your SUV doing to national security?" it asks. "Detroit, America needs hybrid cars now."

Disney-owned ABC-TV affiliates in New York and Los Angeles have refused to air the ads because they are too controversial, Huffington said. The spots appear Sunday on network stations and for the rest of the week on cable TV news channels.

Huffington planted the seeds for The Detroit Project in her column in October by fantasizing about a people's ad campaign taking the government to task for failing to pass tougher fuel efficiency standards while waging war to protect cheap oil.

Readers flooded her "in" basket with more than 5,000 letters by the next morning, asking where to send money for the mythical campaign. Within three weeks she had raised $200,000 to paid for a week of airtime and production of the ads. Huffington recruited her hiking pal Laurie David, who had convinced her to swap her 13 mpg Lincoln Navigator for a 50 mpg Toyota Prius, and film producer Lawrence Bender and talent agent Ari Emanuel to guide the spots through production.

Although they had budgeted $50,000 to produce the spots, written by "Got Milk?" creator Scott Burns, most of the costs were waived when people learned about the project, Burns said.

The Detroit Project founders said plans to expand the campaign to more cities or to make new ads must wait on the public's response -- and their money.

"Some people will thing we went too far. I personally wanted to be very confrontational," Bender said. "September 11 was very confrontational."

For more information and to see the ad spots, visit the Detroit Project site.

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