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Stage-storming Greenpeace activist banned from Cannes Lions despite climate focus

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By Ellen Ormesher | Reporter

June 22, 2022 | 5 min read

Gustav Martner, the Greenpeace activist who gatecrashed the Cannes Lions opening ceremony on Monday night (June 20), has since been ejected and banned from the festival.

Greenpeace activist and former adman Gustav Martner storms the stage at Cannes Lions 2022 and hands back the 2007 award he won for Volkswagen

Greenpeace activist and former adman Gustav Martner stormed the stage at Cannes Lions/ Image via Greenpeace

Martner, who was a former Lions winner and juror himself, took to the stage in a stunt that saw him hand back his award for his work with automotive company Volkswagen, before unfurling a banner that read: ’No awards on a dead planet, ban fossil ads!’

He tells The Drum he has since been ejected and banned from the festival, saying that the “fossil advertisers and their agencies should be banned from Cannes Lions, but instead the only blacklisted person at the world’s biggest advertising event is me.”

A spokesperson from Cannes Lions responded: “While we respect people’s right to protest, at Cannes Lions we have a Code of Conduct applicable to all delegates who attend the Festival. Martner’s actions are in breach of this code, and as a result of this we have revoked his pass.”

There is a growing movement both within and outside the advertising industry to regulate the work advertising agencies undertake for fossil fuel companies and other industries that rely on them, such as automotive and airline companies.

40 organizations, including Greenpeace, are currently pushing a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) petition, calling for a new law that bans fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship in the EU. And despite Martner’s exile, Greenpeace France continued its protest against polluters’ presence in Cannes by plastering posters featuring the popular ‘This is Fine’ meme across the waterfront. However, they since appear to have been removed by festival clean-up operations.

The ad industry continues to reckon with the role it plays in the climate crisis. Ahead of the festival, it was announced that the UN-backed ‘Race to Zero’ campaign would be cracking down on so-called ‘advertised emissions’ – estimations of the greenhouse gases emitted due to the increased consumption promoted by ads. Then just yesterday it was announced that the UK’s Advertising Association would be taking its ‘Ad Net Zero’ program global, with some of the world’s biggest holding companies and advertisers co-signing the venture.

Despite the focus on sustainability at Cannes Lions this year, it would appear that activist agitation on the matter is not welcomed by festival organizers. It remains to be seen whether Martner’s message will resonate with the industry at large.

Martner also starred on (stormed the stage of) The Drum's Morning Show today.

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