Friday, March 24, 2006

Sustainability Fear Campaigns

It appears as though even the sustainability movement is not above fear campaigns.


But does this ad work? Maybe. But it doesn't make the topic something you want to talk about, it doesn't open the door to discussion about the topic in an accessible way.

'Did you see that ad about the train?'

'Yes, we have to do something about this global warming, our children's lives are at stake!'

It just isn't a realistic seque into normal conversation.

I always like to imagine a family, or a group of people sitting in their living room watching TV. They are tired. The hockey game is on, or the news, or a cooking show. They are sitting and watching and no one is speaking. Then the ads come on. It takes a second or two before people realize, hey, these are just commercials, so it is safe for me to speak without feeling like I am disturbing the enjoyment of the program for the others.

Ideally, the initial comment will be about the ad itself. Usually an ad, being interruptive, sets itself up for derision. But if it is ironic, or derisive enough as well- the interrupter can become welcome.

Here is an example of an ad - although it is for vodka - that I think does a better job of opening the door to discussion about sustainability than Train.

Eristoff - Pretty honest for a vodka

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Graffiti Campaigns

Here is a link to a recent graffiti campaign by adidas that really hits the mark. adidas gets it right with adicolour

It's a smart way to incorporate real street art into ad design.

Sony Playstation tried the same thing late last year, but blatantly spray painted walls in poor areas and managed to infuriate the public.

All in all it was seen as not at all cool, which is exactly the opposite reaction of what they were going for.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

30 days of sustainability

I stumbled across the website for 30 days of sustainability today.

30 days of sustainability.

It looks like I just caught the tail end of it, though. It's just down the road - check it out!

Corporate sponsorship in our parks and playgrounds

Corporations are more than willing to put money into the development of just about anything as long as it offers them a chance to advertise.

Hockey rinks, stadiums, university buildings, parking lots and libraries are no exception.

In the Infinite Jest, the book suggests that in the future corporate sponsorship could go as far as renaming the years of a calendar (most of the book takes place in the Year of the Depends Adult Undergarmet).

There are few places left that are not fair game for advertisers - and this poses a diemma for those who have space to sell, namely parks and playgrounds.

With financial pressure, it is tempting to take sponsorship in exchange for supplies. But perhaps it wouldn't be such a dilemma if the there were a thorough screening process for the type of companies that could advertise.

If sustainably-inclined companies were allowed the opportunity to shoulder even a portion of the cost it could help, as long as there were stipulations in place to ensure their advertising does not come across as marring to the landscape or awkwardly intrusive to the mental environment. This could be as innocuous as restricting sponsorship information to the areas that have already been infringed upon (although beneficially, arguably) by humans such as signage, picnic benches, fire grates, and outhouses with the communication limited to a small sign, plaque or stamp (such as in the benches outside of libraries).

There is probably a formula somewhere that relates to the amount of government favouritism in relation to sustainable business incentives and development vs that of corporate involvement in terms of kyoto penalties, future development, BC PR prestige and the economy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bringing Sustainability to the Mainstream

Internationally, the sustainability movement is a wake-up call. The world as we know it will not support human life for much longer and actions must be taken to stave off imminent self-destruction brought about by climate change, overpopulation, the depletion of resources and what have you.

Vancouver is a city that is very much immersed in sustainability. We started Greenpeace, and Adbusters, and one doesn’t have to look far to see that we live in a pocket of mountains, trees, oceans and blue sky. This city, more than any other I can think of, is synonymous with environmentalism.

But sustainability is also a culture. Like skater culture, or fashion culture or punk culture, it is founded on an ideology. With an ideology comes a certain rigid set of values that one is obliged to maintain to be pure, hardcore, legit etc.

Like any established culture, sustainability culture does not want to have their values co-opted by advertisers once their issues become marketable. They don’t want to sell out by bringing their value system to the mainstream where it will be damped and watered down by the trend-setters and wannabes for the sake of fickle profit dollars. It will turn sustainability into a fad.

And the problem with fads is that they fade. They lose their allure and cool and are as quickly dropped and dismissed for the next marketable ideology to take its place.

Saving the world may be sexy today – but tomorrow it might be opulent consumerism and the fat-penguin-suit-look with monoliths to one’s own accomplishments that is all the rage.

So, it is easy to understand the resistance a sustainable company would have with anything that could come across as attacking its own integrity. To some, even making a profit is frowned upon

Ironically enough, I write about the intersections between sustainability and advertising almost every day, and Creative Wonders as an agency works as much as possible with sustainable companies.

It’s an interesting position to be put in. Our job is to spread sustainability for the sake of awareness and profit for the businesses involved, but the very movement is reluctant to do just that. We like to work with companies that are about bettering the earth, because, well, it beats hawking cigarettes and hamburgers to ‘tweens. Why not work towards something positive?

This is where there is a bit of friction. Sustainability as a whole is pretty much opposed to advertising because they don’t want to make their beliefs accessible, however, sustainability just happens to be an issue that is bigger than preservation of a lifestyle.

At this point in human existence, it is not enough for sustainability to be a fashion alone, it needs to be legislation, policy, and paradigm shifting. The more information is spread, the more likely it is to reverse some of the damage that our Earth has suffered since the Industrial Revolution. By making sustainability accessible to the masses, it may soften the edge of the vigilant, but even diffused, it can spread, and then grow in the minds of the mainstream.

Scratch and Sniff advertising

In an attempt to enter our mindspace on a more pervasive level - advertisers have introduced scented advertising for dogs.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Product Placement Database

I was pointed in the direction of a very interesting website the other day. Brandhype. It acts as a database for all of the product placement in films, it’s worth a look.