Why climate change is our most important creative brief
A view from Bill Oberlander

Why climate change is our most important creative brief

The industry needs to take on environmental issues with the same passion that it takes on humanitarian causes, writes the founder of socially conscious marketing agency Oberland

What matters most in the world: Police Civility. Same Sex Marriage. Gun Control. Women’s Right to Choose. War on Terror. Climate Change?

Truth is, most people don’t believe climate change matters. But if you’ve walked the streets of New York this summer, it wouldn’t surprise you that NASA reported July 2016 as the hottest month on record–ever.

Let’s put a few things on the table first. The aforementioned issues and causes all matter and deserve to have a platform. However, everyone’s platform happens to rest on our planet. The same planet we haven’t been quite so kind to since we discovered oil at the dawn of the industrial revolution.

Nature is calling. We may not hear her over the 24-hour news cycle that hypnotizes us into a daze of despair– but in order to ensure all of us continue to thrive, we really need to get our sh#% together.

Some good news: the Obama administration has pledged $3 billion to the Paris Agreement and entrepreneurs like Elon Musk have helped us take strides towards a future in which America is powered (mostly) by renewable energy.

The bad news: 97% of scientists agree that climate change is real and the implications could be fatal to humanity. Yet, somehow, 56% of our congress doesn’t even acknowledge a problem exists. One "politician" believes climate change is a Chinese hoax. But let’s not get into him (or we’ll digress).

The challenge is clear: how do we break the hypnotic hold of sensationalism and hollow headlines and get people to care for our planet? How as marketers, advertises, creatives, hybrid strategist technologist ninjas (this is probably someone’s real title) can we get people to act with purpose and solve climate change?

The advertising industry has made excellent pro-bono work for a myriad of causes and issues. However, on closer examination– most effective work has been done for causes that yank at our emotional heart strings. You know– the sick children, the malnourished across the planet and the cute puppy with beady little brown eyes– looking at you through a cage. Global warming doesn’t quite pull the same heart strings. Or at least it hasn’t–yet.

Perhaps we’re moving into a new era. An era where every brand seeks a higher purpose. Where consumers don’t just buy your products, they also buy what you believe in. With cause marketing rapidly on the rise, it’s important that we take on environmental issues with the same passion that we take on humanitarian issues. Imagine how much progress could come about if every agency put their mind to the cause of saving our planet?

Aside from a few smart pieces of work–most advertising that addresses climate change does so with a cadence of doom and gloom. Right now, an art director somewhere is designing another polar bear, sadly floating away on a shrinking iceberg.

Hope is what works. Hope, participation and fun. The viral success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge shows us that when an idea is fun and participatory it gives an audience ownership and empowers them to elevate the cause. Perhaps to reach audiences and get them to act on climate change, we need to take a similar approach. One of hope and participation.

Our greatest enemy is getting lost in seductive distractions. Instagram feeds, twitter beefs, click bait that hooks us with something tantalizing and checking the ex’s posts on Facebook. All of that goes away if we don’t act on climate change.

It’s literally the most important thing in the world.