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The Great Reset: advertisers tackle climate crisis with 'Create and Strike' return

The Great Reset: I’ll advertise responsibly if you do?

In 2019, Create and Strike saw ad land take a strong stance against environmental disaster, and now its organisers have unveiled the next chapter of its mission. The Grand Reset aims to tackle the climate crisis and spearhead a 'new normal'. Ben Essen, chief strategy officer of Iris Worldwide, outlines its goals.

4 July has been dubbed ’Super Saturday’ – the day people are being encouraged to put lockdown behind them. After a long period of sacrifice, people feel entitled to put their own needs first again, which is all great news for the advertising industry. However, while lockdown has been a great challenge, people have now experienced the clean air, lack of travel, and satisfaction in simple pleasures that don’t put a strain on the planet.

Right now, only 23% of people believe advertising should be encouraging people to consume, shop, and fly like we were before lockdown, meaning the large majority believe it is the advertising industry’s responsibility to encourage them to maintain these sustainable behaviours.

As many in society have discovered the power of collectivism and community in lockdown, a group of advertising professionals have been applying this community spirit to a project called The Great Reset. Brought together by the Purpose Disruptors, over 200 individuals from competing agencies have been working together on the movement, using their influence and creativity to help maintain the sustainable behaviours that have taken root during lockdown.

While these values are fragile, and there is now an urgent and small window of opportunity not to let this progress slide as the world reopens. Here are our goals:

1. We need to reset what we measure

Lockdown is likely to have caused a 7% decline in emissions for 2020. The magic number which - if maintained year on year - would keep warming within 1.5 degrees and avert climate breakdown.

Given the importance of this number, shouldn’t we get serious about measuring it as an industry? Shouldn’t every effectiveness report and awards paper have its heart a Sustainable Development Goal and Greenhouse gas reduction target?

The Great Reset is calling on agencies, brands and awards bodies to come together to start seriously tackling this issue. The movement needs data scientists and effectiveness experts to come together and build a body of evidence - starting with the unique dataset of lessons we will have learned during lockdown.

It’s time to reset what we measure, understand our industry’s true impact and celebrate the work that turns the crisis around. The D&AD are already on board and at Iris, we are pledging the resources of our data and effectiveness team to the development of these insights.

2. We need to reset what behaviours we promote

Lockdown has proven to us that with the right levels of determination, mass behaviour change is possible at an incredible pace. For a few weeks, ‘buy buy buy’ advertising was turned off, and replaced with messages reminding us that ‘community is kindness’ and to protect the NHS. 60% of climate emissions come from household consumption, and much of this consumption is discretionary and non-essential. Much of it is a direct result of the seeds of desire we plant in people’s heads, and for a moment much of it paused.

We now face a choice. Should we encourage people to keep acting sustainably, or get us back on the road to runaway warming? We should feel empowered to challenge our clients on how to #changethebrief.

At Iris, we pledge to engage in a Great Reset conversation with every one of our clients around the world, including – no, especially - the ones for whom this is a difficult conversation.

3. Reset the way we work

But it’s not all about the masses. According to Oxfam, half of all global emissions are created by the top 10% wealthiest people (that’s us). Our personal impact matters and data suggests that over 50% of the advertising industry’s direct emissions come from business travel (mainly flying to shoots and to meetings).

We now face the choice - do we want to go back or go forward? There are many ways for creative companies to reset themselves. Can we use the moral compass to enable agency participation in decisions about who we pitch for? Can we review our milk policy? Can we reset our approach to working from home? Many of us have taken 20% pay cuts during lockdown to cover the temporary lack in revenue. Could some of us continue these, instead of taking back on our 20% most polluting projects?

The Great Reset calls on every company to take this chance to look at themselves and ask difficult questions. What unprecedented but necessary changes to the way we work can we maintain?

4. Stronger together

Of course, for individuals or individual agencies to make these leaps on their own would be commercial suicide. There will always be a competitor willing to do a Dominic Cummings and make the rest of us feel stupid for making sacrifices. To quote Naomi Klein, "a collective problem demands collective action". This moment in time gives us the opportunity to join together and tackle these challenges as a single community. We can make a collective, courageous commitment - not to go back but to go forward.

This is what The Great Reset is. It’s our whole industry standing saying in one breath ‘’l'll do it if you do it”. It’s us standing on our doorsteps and applauding the brands and agencies who make courageous sacrifices for the common good. Some of them will be uncomfortable and difficult. To begin with, there will be more questions than answers. But it will be satisfying, it will be meaningful and if we do it together it can be done.

The Great Reset starts here - so please, go to www.greatreset.com. Download the white paper for ideas on how to get involved, and make a pledge to commit your resources to help create the future we want.

It’s our opportunity. It’s our choice. But more importantly, it’s our responsibility.

Ben Essen is the chief strategy officer of Iris Worldwide

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