Over the past several years, trying to convince automakers to stop marketing their trucks and SUVs with ads, brochures, social media campaigns and the like that depict those vehicles splashing through rivers has been a Sisyphean task.
Like playing Whac-A-Mole, as soon as we address the issue with one company—some of them actually listen and change their ways while others keep plowing ahead—it seems another cliché image of some burly truck bombing through a babbling brook pops up somewhere else.
Jeep? Apparently not so much. Toyota—typically a great supporter of outdoor sports, including fishing—is apparently still struggling to grasp it, as evidenced by a recent outright ban in the UK of an ad showing an army of Hilux trucks chewing up a river.
I get it, that some advertising “creatives” really aren’t all that tuned into outdoorsy traditions and culture in the first place. I get it that they want to make a “splash” (literally). And we’ve heard all sorts of explanations, from “that was a closed-course simulation,” and “that was shot on private property,” and on and on and on…
But here’s the thing:
If you produce ads that show trucks being driven through rivers, people are going to emulate that and drive trucks through rivers. I truly believe that you, ad-makers, are at least partially to blame for things like this.
The biggest concern, of course, is that somebody could get killed driving a truck through a river. When floods happen, the first thing many public safety officials do is warn people not to drive through water when they don’t know how deep it is. A first responder friend of mine once told me it only takes a few inches of moving water to sweep a car off a slightly submerged bridge, and we all know, sadly, that many people who die in floods do so in their vehicles.
The second concern is environmental. Just the other day, some knucklehead tried to cross the Yampa River in Colorado, got stuck, but was able to winch the truck out before the BLM folks arrived to investigate (bet it was a cold, slippery wade out of the river, though). The rub is that, according to the story in the Steamboat Pilot & Today, “The area of the river where the truck was found is the site of a recent, multi-million-dollar habitat restoration project and is on BLM land.”
Science shows that driving through rivers chews up the river bottoms and pollutes the rivers. That’s bad for the habitat, bad for fish, bad for the bugs that fish eat, and nowhere near as good as just leaving the rocks, plants and water alone.
And yes, driving a truck through a river is a heckuva lot worse than walking through a river in waders. On top of that, we’re learning that a certain chemical in tires actually kills certain fish like salmon and trout (you can expect an investigative feature on that topic in an upcoming issue of TROUT magazine).
One other sad concern is that this type of behavior demonstrates a lack of respect for nature—and each other—that’s eating away at the soul of many outdoor pursuits, including trout fishing. My good friend, author Steve Ramirez (buy his books) eloquently summed it up this way on social media:
“No influence is as strong on humanity as empathy, understanding, and unified resolve about how we will treat the planet and each other. Driving trucks through riverbeds is a symptom of the problem—disrespect and disregard for nature and each other. This, I feel, is the true disease that is destroying us. It’s not a resource, it’s a river, a tree, a deer, a human. Let’s pull together to model and teach respect and responsibility. We are the hope in an all-too-often seemingly hopeless world.”
So, we’re going to keep playing Whac-A-Mole, we’re going to keep rolling the rock up the hill, and we’ll call out those who disrespect our rivers, whether they’re doing the driving or the advertising.
We hope you will also.