Flames flash into the sky and smoke fills the forest as firefighters struggle to bring a furious conflagration under control.
Such incendiary images pervade Carmichael Lynch's new minute-long spot for Subaru, which promotes the carmaker's pledge to help plant 500,000 new trees in areas ravaged by California wildfires:
Ultimately, stills and video of the raging inferno give way to the desolation left behind. We see eerie, unearthly landscapes: burnt and blackened ground, sooty grey horizons and smoldering stalks that look more like matchsticks than trees. Photojournalist Stuart Palley supplied the stark footage, culled from his travels in Subaru vehicles along the California coast to document the ecological destruction.
It's grim, gripping stuff, memorably introducing the Subaru Forester Re-Foresting Project. Under that plan, the company and its dealers will work with the National Forest Foundation to plant 125,000 trees per year through 2023. Subaru will use a fleet of Foresters to transport those saplings. All told, millions of trees have succumbed to California wildfires in the past few years.
"Our agency brought us this idea to help the areas devastated by the fires," Subaru National advertising manager Brian Cavallucci tells Muse. "But it also fell right around the timing of our new Forester launch. So that is why we chose that particular vehicle to be featured in the spot."
He adds: "The audience is broader than only the people who were directly affected by the California wildfires, which is why we decided to run this spot nationally. This will appeal to viewers because even though some are not owners, or will never own a Subaru, they will know that Subaru is committed to giving back."
Moving forward, the brand will continue to position itself as a caring corporate citizen. "You will see more ads about initiatives like this," says Cavallucci. "People want to know that we do more than just build great cars. We do our part to make the world a better place and use the success that we've had to do so."
The spot marks a dramatic evolution of recent themes and styles in the automaker's marketing. In February, the company touted its Outback models with National Parks-focused content across BuzzFeed and National Geographic. Cinematic ads have become brand staples, with this 2018 commercial starring a blind trail guide providing a notable example.