Second, the shift in News Corp’s editorial approach from “anti-awakening” to “opportunity for climate change” has brought together unlikely new combinations such as Mike Cannon-Brookes, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the resident climate-skeptic Andrew Bolt.
And finally, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed he will attend the climate change summit in Glasgow with a brokered deal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
The clear message is that the underlying economics of decarbonization have changed, and corporate and media mindsets with it. Yet sections of the advertising industry are focused on exposing and shaming those who work with “fossil fuel customers.”
Last month, Big Red employees received an email from an advertising industry group offering $500 gift cards to complete a survey condemning working with such clients.
The group, which I choose not to name, reveals that dozens of ad agencies have indeed signed up and pledged the following:
“I declare that my work as a communicator will not support any activity, organization or individual that promotes:
- the growth of fossil fuels
- high greenhouse gas pollution as “business as usual”
- deception, distraction or misappropriation around science or climate actions.
Implicit in the phrase “all activities, organizations or individuals” is a clear division of the world into black hats and white hats.
For example, AGL is identified by the group as “black hat”. But in the real world, AGL is also the country’s largest electricity supplier. Is there a successful transition to electric vehicles without the involvement of Australia’s largest electricity supplier? Of course not.
Recently we launched a new campaign for our client BHP (also identified by the group). It is currently running in Australia and will soon appear in markets around the world.
The slogan is “The future is bright if we keep thinking big”.
The campaign points out that reducing emissions requires not only less use of resources such as coal, but also increased use of other resources such as copper (for electric vehicles), nickel (for batteries) and iron ore (for energy efficient buildings). .
And who provides a huge amount of copper, nickel and iron ore in the world? BHP.
Even if you ignore the company’s very public divestment from its coal and oil assets, the simple truth is that there can be no economic decarbonization without the best efforts of companies like BHP. To disparage these efforts is not only lazy and wrong, but counterproductive.
As an industry, advertising often laments how it has fallen from its former perch in prime conference rooms and lost its connection to the C-suite. But unless it resists the temptation to apply superficial thinking to deep issues that may not change any time soon.
It is dishonest to try to name and shame agencies whose clients are a critical part of corporate leadership towards a decarbonized future. And where is the line drawn? Should agencies steer clear of gambling brands or refuse to run campaigns on media platforms that fight misinformation? The advertising industry is about solving problems, not creating them.
Companies are moving fast to provide the technological and economic answers to decarbonization. Advertising can play a role in helping consumers understand this, but if it prefers to scratch the surface and not play a role in helping this transition, it may never find a seat at the table again. vs.
Campbell Smith is the Chief Strategy Officer of independent advertising agency Big Red.