Friday, November 25, 2005

Up to our necks in salt water

Despite the Fraser Report citing that the air in Vancouver is cleaner than ever – it seems as though the rest of the world is not faring as well as the ‘best place to live on Earth’.

One study has found that greenhouse gasses are rising faster than they have for thousands of years. As a consequence of this, the Earth’s ocean levels have risen twice as fast as usual in the last 150 years.

This study, which analyzed fossil data from the deep sea, satellite pictures of shorelines, and 650,000 year old gas samples frozen 3000m under the ice in Antarctica singles out the impact humans have had on global warming.

Carbon dioxide emissions come mainly from human activity such as burning coal and other fossil fuels in power plants, factories and automobiles.

The reasons studies like this exist is that people just simply don’t believe that there is a link between their power consumption and the rest of the world. It is too abstract of a concept, with no immediate tangible proof.

So it needs to be communicated. And communication is getting into people’s minds quickly, pervasively and memorably.

This is where advertising comes into the picture. It is communications boiled down to achieve maximum efficiency and results.

There has been millions of dollars invested in it already to be sure. Why not use this knowledge to our advantage?

Ugh, sustainability can be so serious sometimes. It needs to lighten up a little if it wants a broader audience (after all isn’t that the point).

Here is an ad I absolutely love, again, a single-minded message, an unconventional format, sex appeal, and humour.

Toyota Girlfriend ad

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Sustainable Single-Mindedness

One of the biggest problems facing green companies is the sheer amount of education behind their products. To get this information across to the public can be a big feat.

Take organic food.

With every piece sold there is a story behind it: where it is grown, the treatment of the workers, the treatment of the suppliers, the toxins in the environment, not to mention the legitimacy of the organic certification in the first place. All the way to how the packaging materials and advertising affect the environment. It is a whole process that needs to be communicated.

The same goes for organic cotton shirts or coffee. No pesticides, no slave labour, no cruelty, fair conditions, fair trade certification, etc.

This is a lot of information to get across to the average consumer with a 1 second attention span who takes in over 2000 messages a day.

There is so much background information to digest that it often leaves the socially conscious business two options – to fill an ad with so much information that no one will ever read it, or preach to the choir.

Socially conscious and LOHAS businesses need to use the tactics that major corporations have been employing since the beginning: A single-minded focus.

The best advertising has condensed their message down to one single idea. It is the only thing an advertisement can expect a time-starved consumer to understand.

Of all the agency work I've seen, I think that McCann-Erickson are the masters of the single-minded message. They are a seasoned agency, with some major blue chip clients such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Michelin, so they are doing something right.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Advertising for a Sustainable Future

Sometimes sustainability is just plain common sense. For the next few days I am going to run a series on the things that we could be doing to reduce our footprint, at no cost to us, in fact, at a savings.

One of the reasons we are so reluctant to change is that we are caught up in bad habits based on familiarity. And usually this familiarity is based on a silly idea introduced decades ago by a marketing department.

So here is a chance to undo some of the madness.

Why add carcinogenic red food dye to nuts?

Or bleach coffee filters and toilet paper with chlorine pollutants?

Why does gum need to be individually wrapped?

Why is it so hard to find a take-out joint in this city that doesn’t use styrofoam?

In the era of the enlightened consumer, it makes more sense to highlight the features of a product, in terms of how it can reduce an impact, as opposed to contribute to the problem.

Let’s start with reducing greenhouse gasses (GHGs) from your home or office.

Scanners, printers, speakers and computer peripherals consume a lot of energy, even when in standby mode. Monitors are notorious offenders, and screensavers don’t work to save power. By turning computers and machines off at night, it is possible to save heaps of power, and in turn money.

Keeping old coffee warm costs 5 cents a cup,

10 incandescent emergency lights cost roughly $100 a year, if they were LED it would be closer to $7.

A print on both sides saves nine.

Then there is food. And cleaning.

Why clean your house with poision? Thirty years from now they are going to look back at our generation and think that we were nuts. We fill our immediate environment with toxins for no reason and beyond convenience, habit and steeling our immune system.

But we have a ways to go before we catch up with the quality of their ads though. I love this one.

Creative Wonders link

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Have You Seen This Payphone?

Why are all of the pay phones in this city ripped out? Between downtown and Burnaby there is not one phone in operation. Every single one has been either taken out completely or destroyed beyond repair.

It doesn’t take a leap of the imagination to think that Telus wants everyone to buy a cell phone, similar to how Coca Cola tore out all of the water fountains in golf courses and universities to replace them with Dasani machines (which, by the way, are just tap water anyway). But the removal to one every few blocks is still maintaining a certain break-even point (not to mention a visual presence), suggesting other factors at play.

But does the government not have an obligation to the public to provide access to telephones? What if there was an emergency?

I don’t know if it has anything to do with the strike. I think there is one going on. At least I was pretty sure when I hooked up a phone line without a hitch last month. But where is this vandalism coming from? Disgruntled workers? People angry at the speed of their dial-up? Telus themselves to spite us all? Other cell phone providers? Rogers, Fido, Bell and Virgin certainly profit from this inconvenience.

In other news: I went to the Vogue Theatre last night for a NABS benefit to see the Cannes Lions 2005. I must admit, I had seen them all online previously, but here is a series from Thailand surrounding sustainability issues. Lost Money

In other other news, the Fraser Institute released a report today stating that we are free to breathe deeper, as the air quality in Vancouver has improved over the last ten years. Most likely due to the Air Care program we all know and love.

Monday, November 21, 2005

More News About John Hopkins Medical Centre

A few months ago I had a post about a health warning issued by John Hopkins explaining how dioxins found in water bottles and plastics would cause cancer if they were frozen or put in the microwave. Apparently this email was widely circulated, but it is, in fact, a hoax.

There are no dioxins in plastic.

Freezing slows down the chemical process, as opposed to accelerating it.

I have been calling the media relations people and cancer researchers at John Hopkins Medical Centre all morning, and it has been confirmed: Do not believe anything you read as a forwarded message.

Bill Gates is not redistributing his money.

That boy gone missing at the Wal-Mart is false.

You will not have seven years of bad luck if you do not forward the message on.

These scams have been going on for years, and are the cause of much of the spam out there (that has been linked to $87 billion in lost productivity). They are an unethical marketers dream, and a way to compile a massive database of email addresses.

There is another urban myth I looked into as well – that Kellogg invented a cereal with saltpetre in it to slow down the libidos of his boarding school boys. Don’t believe it.

In other news – here is an ad for leather pants.