Good Vibrations

I grew up with great affection for the simplest, most primitive environmental  public service announcements — the spots with Smokey the Bear and the Native American canoeist with the (glycerin?) tear. They’ve stayed in my mind like jingles and, more than any other source, taught me respect for our natural resources.

So I have a lot of nostalgia — and residual goodwill — towards ads that do well, but also do good. And that, in turn, made the recent DDB Brazil-World Wildlife Fund 9/11 ad debacle seem even sadder. No need to recap the details, but, as Ricky Bobby would put it, it was “mind-bottling.” (Some good has come of it: Both The One Show and D&AD have come out with stronger rules and harsher penalties against scam, or “faux-bono,” submissions.)

So against that charged background, this exhibition about climate change, open during Advertising Week at The Paley Center for Media’s Spielberg Gallery, is all the more inspiring. Organized by the not-for-profit ACT Responsible, the show, called The Expo: Climate Change, Creative Challenge, displays a selection of global campaigns that focus on environmental and social issues.

Culled from more than 40 countries and 140 agencies, the exhibit includes the United Nations’ Climate Change Communication Initiative’s “Hopenhagen” (hopenhagen.org), created by Ogilvy Worldwide on behalf of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, and the UN-led “Seal the deal” campaign (sealthedeal2009.org). Both seek to build political will and public support for reaching a comprehensive global climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

Also raising awareness for the Copenhagen meeting is Havas Worldwide’s “Tck” campaign (timeforclimatejustice.org), created for Kofi Annan’s Global Humanitarian Forum. “Tck” was introduced last June at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival by humanitarian superstars such as Annan and Bob Geldof. At the time, Gel-dof joked, “Asking the ad industry to act responsibly is sort of like asking [Italian prime minister Silvio] Berlusconi to shag someone older than 18.”

“Tck” has already been effective. Oxfam, Greenpeace and companies such as EDF Energy and HSBC have committed to incorporating “tck tck tck” materials in some of their marketing. “Tck tck tck” is digital shorthand for the countdown to Copenhagen and the urgent need to address global warming. It’s also a universally understood phrase for “time’s a wastin’!”

As part of the push leading up to December’s summit, a rerecording of Midnight Oil’s 1987 hit “Beds Are Burning” will be released as the campaign’s anthem.

Originally written to address the unjust treatment of Australia’s Aboriginal population, the song has been rewritten with warnings about global warming. Euro RSCG’s music label, The:Hours, is working on the recording of the track, which will feature a “We Are the World”-style collaboration of 100 artists, including Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon and Late Night With David Letterman’s Paul Shaffer and Will Lee. The song will be available for free download; each download will be considered the “signing” of a petition.

“Tck” is an open-source campaign. People worldwide can go to the site and upload their “tcks,” which will form a sort of global digital blanket when put together. There are also inexpensive “tck” tags that are nicely designed to look like dog tags and are individually numbered.

There’s also a worldwide citizens’ petition to sign at hopenhagen.org, a name I thought was sort of lame at first. But then I thought about getting through to children in the simplest way, and decided it was memorable and clever. Certainly, the print ads, using gorgeous photography and interesting typography, are eye-catching. One of the phrases, “We can save ourselves from ourselves,” is brilliant — and true.

So kudos to all the industry people who donated their considerable talents and lots of time to work on the ads (for all the right reasons.) And congratulations to the organizers. It’s a great exhibition so, even if your Advertising Week schedule is already packed, take some time to get inspired.

No doubt the ads will build awareness for the coming summit in Copenhagen. And even though life (and global warming) is a lot more complicated than a forest fire, some of the submissions might just stick in our hearts