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After Cop26, 3 ad agencies hope to sell consumers a sustainable future

On the final day of Cop26, ad agencies asked if advertising really can be the solution to a climate crisis fueled by overconsumption.

With the Cop26 climate summit behind us, a team of UK ad agency professionals is working together to create demand for wide-reaching behavioral changes they say are necessary to limit the worst effects of the climate crisis.

Purpose Disruptors, a network of ad industry workers looking to reform the sector to tackle climate change, unveiled a 20-minute documentary at the summit last week, arguing for advertising professionals to step up and use their persuasive powers for good.

Based on the insight that advertising is responsible for an average 28% uptick in the carbon footprint of the average consumer, Purpose Disruptors hopes to reconcile the industry’s role in driving consumption by correcting course.

It is now encouraging adland to drive consumption down at the agency level by encouraging it to adopt a red, amber and green graded strategy when considering the carbon emissions of their client.

For the next step of their climate crusade, they’ve enlisted three British agencies – McCann Manchester, Gravity Road and Iris – to produce ads that sell consumers the idea that change is in their hands too.

The project saw a single brief, created by Ally Kingston, planning director at Futerra, for creatives to change the image of the year 2030 from a pessimistic, bleak future to an optimistic, yet realistic, vision of how different things could be.

In ’Less Is More,’ produced by Gravity Road, the audience is encouraged to recall the few good elements of the coronavirus pandemic – the chance to reconnect with loved ones, disrupt daily routines and repair our relationships with nature – and imagine applying those principles to the rest of their lives.

The ad uses just text and ambient sound to put its point across.

In ’It’s Me, I Mean You,’ from McCann Manchester, broadcaster Alice Levine is interrupted on a teabreak by her future self, traveling back in time to persaude her to make climate-oriented changes in her life.

And in the final offering, from Iris, consumers are encouraged to consume less stuff and instead enjoy more of the ’Goodstuff’; family, friends and the great outdoors. The spot blends animation, live-action footage and a bracing monologue to persuade punters.

Looking to the future, Purpose Disruptors co-founder Jonathan Wise says the goal of Purpose Disruptors is to scale awareness of the impact of consumption on the environment on both a personal and industry-wide level.

“When is the industry going to have a frank and honest conversation about its relationship to climate change?” he asks.

Wise says it is the responsibility of industry bodies such as the Advertising Association to facilitate these conversations and that the network would like to see more input from it and others in the near future.

“We need industry bodies to guide the industry over the threshold of responsbility, then we can move through the difficulties of acknowledging the truth.”

Additional reporting by Sam Bradley.

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