Be on the right side of history.

Posted by

Taylor Gathercole


More than 1 month ago, Extinction Rebellion turned their attack to adland. Encouraging the ad industry to use its expertise in manipulating public opinion for good or risk mass public protests against it.

Every business knows it has a role to play in tackling issues such as climate change, and the advertising/marketing/communications, whatever way you want to twist it, is powerful to shift behaviour and simply change the behaviour and way we do things.

In the letter, one of the authors said “Advertising has helped promote high-carbon lifestyles and hyper-consumption. However, if we’re to survive, this must change rapidly.” And “advertising will increasingly be seen alongside oil and logging as obviously toxic industries and those with the job title ‘creatives’ will soon find themselves rebranded as ‘destroyers’.”

We (Canco) recently signed a welcomed initiative “Creative Climate Disclosure Project”. Which literally stats that creativity has consequences and that the industry can not rule its self out, and be neutral.

This disclosure stats that companies report their income from fossil fuel clients, and the industry they work in. In a recent article by Ed Gillespie, he said: “Don’t get me wrong – It’s a good thing to avoid working directly for those bad boys businesses driving us towards the brink of climatic and ecological Armageddon, of which the fossil fuel majors are just the most obvious.” And “Taking their dirty dollars should be a source of real shame, but that’s not something we’re likely to see a lot of from BP’s agency WPP.

You only have to look at climate science and know that our underlying issues do not derive from a growing population, but from consumption. That’s our real hard truth challenge. As the article written by Emily Atkin stats “Climate Change Is the Symptom. Consumer Culture Is Disease.”

If consumption is the real issue, then the ad industry is supporting this issue, because our agencies exist to sell, and keep selling. You can argue “we’ll only sell the ethical stuff”, with “sustainable choices, sustainable communications etc”. This isn’t going to solve anything, it is just going to make it worse.

Our existing behaviours, efficiency, mindset need to change, consumers, brands, advertising agencies. Everyone. We all need to be aligned with climate science.

“One of the reasons we’ve got here is because you’ve been selling things to people that they don’t need. You are the manipulators and architects of that consumerist frenzy.” Said XR.

One of the biggest challenges in addressing the climate crisis is using communications effectively enough to drive change. We have an abundance of talent and this clear imperative, and if we just devoted those skills to something big and good, and not some small campaign to give up plastic straws, we may actually see some global change.

If agencies and its client don’t make a change and declare a climate emergency, consumers will only insist we do. People are beginning to point the finger, and it’s coming our way.

We must pull together, make a change, and align ourselves with climate science and use our skills to tell the world what’s going on, why they should care and what they can do about it. As well as communicating what we’re doing too.

Let’s be on the right side of history.