The Project

This website houses the digital portion of a master’s level research project which  Explored the Portrayals of Nature in National geographic Car Ads. The digital project consists of empirical research that employs content and visual analysis techniques. I created this digital Project to store the data, to aid in the analysis, and presentation, and to facilitate interdisciplinary discourse. The digital project is comprised of:

  1. a Digital Archive of the ads
  2. a Timeline that traces Car Culture, the Car Ads, and the American Environmental Movement
  3. this website

Partial Abstract

Researchers study National Geographic magazine (NGM) for imperialist ideologies (Tuason, 1999) and exoticized portrayals of peoples and cultures (Lutz and Collins, 1993), however none have investigated the constructions of nature in its commercial advertisements. I digitized, archived and analyzed a biannual, even-year sample of the 416 automobile advertisements published in quarterly issues of NGM 1946–2008…

Feel free to engage with the images, ideas and media interface that appeal to you

*For a linear historical view, visit the Timeline which places car culture and environmentalism along the same axis.

*Visit the Archive of Car Ads, view the curated exhibits and individual ads

*Visit the Blog to learn about the creative academic process.

 THis Project Began with a random CAr Ad

I created this project because I was curious about the cultural underpinnings of the American perception of and relationship with nature. In November 2008 I noticed a car ad that hooked my imagination and compelled me to investigate further.

As you can see below, this ad features three SUV’s in a fictitious landscape. The jewel tones call to our imaginings of the deepest reaches of a National Park where only we can access with our environmentally harmless automobile. The emerald grass sans tire marks, the gulls flying overhead and the strangely proportioned mountains are piqued my suspicions because there was no explanation for the detail being equal for far away and up close objects, and it is unclear how the cars got there, where ad who the drivers are. This is a narrative with no beginning or end, just middle – where we must suspend disbelief and just accept the presence of three SUVs in this pristine location. Add to that the three missives across the top, Drive farther. Save fuel. Help environment – and you have a recipe for guilt-free consumption of a newly sourced, environmentally expensive vehicle. Nature in this ad, is the setting that naturalizes the car. It belongs there because we desire to go there, and the only way to get there is by car, BlueTEC or otherwise.

Mercedes Benz BlueTEC SUV Ad from the November 2008 National Geographic Magazine

Advertising is a huge part of the American experience. I’ve read that the “average American” is exposed to some 3,000 advertisements a day. Car culture has shaped the American psyche and landscape, so it stands to reason that car advertising is very influential in shaping the cultural and physical landscape.


Creative Commons License

Production of Nature in post-WWII National Geographic Car Advertisements by Shawndel N. Fraser is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.