Sunday, February 11, 2024

Advertising and climate change

A couple of interesting articles on the latest episode of the CBC environment program What On Earth caught my notice.

Firstly, a series of campaigns to clamp down on false and misleading advertising ("badvertising") by fossil fuel companies (from 5'30" into the audio). Many cities, like Sydney, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Liverpool, Norwich and others have introduced strict rules on greenwashing and advertising for fossil fuel companies and other high-carbon products (think big SUVs, airlines, etc) on public transit and other advertising media within their control. Charlie Angus of the federal NDP has recently proposed in the Canadian House of Commons a similar rule to apply Canada-wide.

The idea is to treat the fossil fuel industry much the same as the tobacco industry a few decades ago, and for largely similar reasons: the immorality of allowing profit-making at the expense of people's health and the health of the environment. The tobacco advertising ban was quite successful in its time, and the hope is to replicate that in the climate change field.

The other item (starting at 14'30" into the audio) concerns what kind of advertising about climate change actually works and what kind doesn't. Recent marketing studies show that 78% of people from all walks of life believe that governments should do "whatever it takes" to deal with the climate crisis (only 10% actually disagreed). That's a lot, and not at all what you might think from reading the papers and watching the daily news.

On the downside, though, many people have little or no idea about the issues involved. The average person apparently believes that the UN target for climate change is not 1.5°C but ... 4°C! 

As to what advertising messages actually work, if faced with three different messages - 1) we're solving the climate crisis, we have the solutions; 2) make the polluters pay, force them to take responsibility for their actions; and 3) this is an urgent generational issue, we have to solve this for the sake of our kids and grandkids - message No. 3 is by far the most effective message, across all demographics. So, the solution is to appeal to people's moral compasses and to people's urge to care for something other than themselves.

Interesting stuff.

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