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Sustainable Transformation Sustainability Media Planning and Buying

Pet food made of insects and a plastic-free gum among winners of £2m Sky media fund


By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

August 17, 2023 | 6 min read

Grub Club, Milliways, Ocean Bottle, Ocean Saver and UpCircle have been named as the finalists of the broadcaster’s climate change initiative.

Sky final 5

The five finalists will each receive £250,000 / Sky

Sky’s £2m advertising fund uses the power of TV advertising to support campaigns that drive behavior change for a more sustainable world.

The Zero Footprint Fund, now in its third year, was initially launched to extend Sky’s net-zero pledge into its advertising, says the broadcaster’s planning director, Sarah Jones.

“We weren’t getting briefs about sustainability; we weren’t getting questions from marketers about the work Sky had done. But in the last 18 months or so, the conversation around sustainability in advertising has massively accelerated. We now see the Zero Footprint Fund as a catalyst to use the power of TV to fight climate change.”

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Last year’s finalists were Ecosia, Homethings, Royal Mail, Serious Tissues and Wuka and Jones tells us that while Sky specifically encouraged more prominent brands to apply this year, “none got through to the final five.”

This is mainly because it’s much easier for startups founded with sustainability in mind to meet the competition’s criteria, she says: “When we’ve had applications from bigger brands, the vast majority of them have a carbon legacy behind them that it becomes a lot harder for them to shake off and completely prove their credentials in the sustainability area.”

Building on a trend seen across previous winners, this year’s finalists are startups and newcomers in the sustainability space: “There are no carbon skeletons in their closets.”

Jones hints at a tonal shift in this year’s ads, moving away from more negative images of climate change (“burning forests and turtles wrapped in plastic bags”) and focusing on awareness of solutions.

“The Greta Thunberg-style rhetoric that says we have to change the world appeals to some people, especially young people, but it struggles to appeal to the vast majority who feel like it’s too expensive or too difficult to be more sustainable in their day-to-day – especially now, during the cost of living crisis.”

For these reasons, the selected finalists focus on sectors used by a broad audience – from pet food to beauty products: “Our ambition for these five winners is that they’ll shake up their category and have a wider effect on the industry.”

The ads will now move into production ahead of the final stage of judging in December, but Jones says we should anticipate the panel’s demand for a fresh take on climate change to be reflected in the content.

“Milliways’ key insight is that the majority of chewing gum is made from plastic, so chewing a piece of gum is like chewing on a plastic straw. It has done some brilliantly funny executions that reflect that.

“Grub Club, meanwhile, is a pet food brand that is based on insects, so it’s very circular in the way that the insects are fed and grown. It has focussed on dogs’ personalities and how they’re a lot like people, and we know people really respond to that kind of content.”

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In addition to the five finalists, Sky has also announced an additional media value for sustainable local businesses and initiatives around the UK, called the ‘Local Heroes’ fund, where winners are partially voted for by the public.

“The fact that we’ve had more startups and now we’re moving into local areas shows that sustainability needs to be built from the ground up,” says Jones. “The opportunity for local brands to apply and supercharge their businesses is a great way of giving back and helping them to grow their sustainable message.”

Want to learn more about the most critical issue of our time? Senior reporter Ellen Ormesher explores the role of advertising and marketing in the climate crisis. Get the briefing here.

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