By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

August 25, 2023 | 6 min read

After an ad that took a swipe at influencers working with big oil was banned by LinkedIn, creative network Glimpse is back with the next phase of its campaign urging social media stars to steer clear of fossil fuels.

From a former BBC presenter to a polar explorer, major oil and gas firms including Shell and BP are using UK influencers to improve their image among younger generations.

An investigation by DeSmog last month uncovered hundreds of examples of content creators being paid to promote fossil fuel firms worldwide since 2017, resulting in campaigns that have reached billions of people.

It revealed that in 2020, leaked internal documents from BP showed how the firm sought to “reach influencers” in order to become “more relatable, passionate and authentic” and “win the trust of the younger generation.”

DeSmog went on to name a number of UK influencers including former BBC presenter Dallas Campbell, singer and TV presenter Alesha Dixon and YouTube inventor Colin Furze as just some of the content creators recruited by fossil fuel companies to promote their green credentials.

However, a report by the think tank InfluenceMap has shown that oil firms spend disproportionately on marketing their green solutions compared with actual investment.

In a bid to dissuade young creatives from inadvertently contributing to greenwashing by making content sponsored by fossil fuels, creative network Glimpse has launched its ‘Inside Job’ campaign that wants to enlist top young talent to playfully expose the problem while pointing to a radically different future beyond high carbon brands.

It hasn’t been plain sailing, however. Following the release of its first video, ‘Save the Planet, Unfollow a Greenwasher’ Glimpse’s ad was removed from LinkedIn on the grounds that it depicted the actor in the film vomiting an oil-like substance.

Glimpse opted to reupload an edited version of the ad, with the offending vomit replaced with actual headlines detailing Shell’s history on climate change and greenwash. LinkedIn removed this too, stating in an email seen by The Drum that “the depiction of vomiting is still clear in the audio and visual, which is offensive to good taste.”

Glimpse’s founder James Turner told The Drum it is now considering a formal complaint to LinkedIn about Shell’s ads on its platform on the basis that greenwashing is offensive to good taste.

“Personally, I think a sugary fake oil we made in the studio is hardly offensive to good taste,” Turner added. “But I do think it’s interesting that when we covered the vomit with real headlines about Shell’s reputation on renewables, it was also removed. But we have to take LinkedIn at face value.”

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Glimpse won’t be dissuaded from continuing to jab at greenwashing influencers, however, as it releases the next phase of the campaign – uniting with industry pressure group Clean Creatives to help promote its new ‘creators pledge.’ This is specifically aimed at getting social media creators to pledge not to work with fossil fuel firms.

It also continues to jab at big oil’s attempts to ingratiate themselves with young people via influencers through an accompanying spot starring social media comedian Will Hislop.

Inspired by a scene from The Big Short in which Margot Robbie skillfully explains the stock market while relaxing in a jacuzzi, the film sees Hislop adopt the persona of a bombastic influencer called Toby Douglas.

Turner says: “Creators have so much potential to win over audiences with comedy, great storytelling and bubbles. But some of them are using their talents to support high-carbon brands, which are trying to greenwash their image with Gen Z while turning on the hot tap all over the world. We’re asking creators of all stripes to sign the Clean Creatives pledge and join us in the jacuzzi of the future.”

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