Image by Tim Aubry
As we wave goodbye to 2019 - and the 2010s - The Drum editorial team look back at the agencies, brands, people and campaigns that have proven that marketing can change the world. And for fighting the good fight on behalf of the whole planet for almost 50 years, its message becoming increasingly vital these last 10, our organization of the decade is Greenpeace.
As it approaches its 50th year, environmental organization Greenpeace has a lot to look back on, having set the green agenda on meat-eating, fossil fuels, palm oil, the climate, nuclear energy, sustainability, biodiversity, coral bleaching, plastic, deforestation, whale-hunting and more with consistent creative comms, provocative protests, and its increasingly relevant message.
Marketing 101 advises brands to limit the number and variety of messages they put out – it is more effective to stick to fewer, repeated lines. Greenpeace doesn’t have that liberty. Its concerns – once on the fringes – are set to form the bedrock of public anxiety in the coming decade. Greenpeace and its creative allies have made the existential threat facing the planet digestible and told us how we could save it.
Greenpeace knows that marketing can save the world – although brands might forget it sometimes. Looking back on its past decade of campaigns alone paints a picture of an organization that understands how to get talked about. Its goal to “ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity” has inspired memorable activations.
At front of mind, you’ll most likely know it from Mother’s ‘Rang-tan’ spot which received much praise on these pages last year. The 90-second animation narrated by Emma Thompson told the story of why a young orangutan was hiding in a little girl’s bedroom, its habitat having been destroyed as forests made way for palm oil crops. If you didn’t see the initial run, frozen food retailer Iceland had it ‘banned-from-TV’ Christmas last. And if you missed that, Dutch grocer Ekoplaza also recycled it in 2019.
Few consumers are now able to see palm oil in something without thinking of that homeless orangutan and Iceland has been taking steps to banish the substance completely from its shelves, as well as reducing its use of plastics. And before ‘Rang-tan’, it was Sainsbury’s that was under attack from Greenpeace for being sluggish on plastics (it has since vowed to halve the amount it uses).
Let’s explore how ahead of its time some of Greenpeace’s campaigns were. In 2010 it staged an open brief to redesign the BP logo to underline the damage the company had caused in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It preempted David Attenborough’s ocean plastics revolution by showing how Coca-Cola’s plastics kill animals in 2013. Later that year it melted Santa’s home in the North Pole and in 2014 it was Lego that was the focal point of its protests, the brand having created Shell-branded toys and been accused of normalizing oil production among kids. The toymaker held out less than a year before killing the partnership
In 2016, London statues were scaled and fitted with masks to protest air pollution – an unforgettable image. In 2018, Greenpeace conducted a school trip to an aquarium where, instead of sea life, it was filled with gross plastic waste. You’ll never forget the disappointment on the children’s faces. Before Greta Thunberg set the agenda on the next generation’s right to a clean Earth, this room of children had moved us.
In 2019 it attacked Nestlé’s plastic footprint by creating a horror film about an all-too-believable ‘chief plastics officer’ and, most recently, it’s been spoiling holiday turkeys with a comedy roast battle that highlights the area of rainforest cut down to provide turkeys with feed.
Each campaign moved forward the discussion about consumption, consumers and the future of the planet. Greenpeace had to walk before Extinction Rebellion could run cities globally to a standstill.
Every attack on a brand’s sustainability is a chance for a chief marketer to make the right decision. Every campaign can inspire change – will we do it fast enough? Can we make peace with our green future?