Clean Creatives' F-List Awards Are Back, Trolling the Ad Industry for Ties to Polluters

The 10 categories include the 'Lifetime Achievement Award for Achieving Shortened Lifetimes' and 'Greenest Greenwash'

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If you thought awards season was over, think again.

Clean Creatives, the campaign pressuring ad agencies to drop fossil fuel clients, brought back its F-List Awards today—but it’s not one that most agencies would want to display in the lobby next to their Cannes Lions.

Edelman, Havas, McCann and Ogilvy were each “dishonored” by winning in one of 10 categories during the livestreamed award ceremony for work that the agencies have done for fossil fuel companies. Each winner has worked with a fossil fuel client within the last two years, according to Clean Creatives.

Launched in 2022, the award show uses humor, in-depth research and a touch of public shaming to highlight the ad industry’s power to influence consumer behavior and culture in ways that can either accelerate the climate crisis or combat it. After taking last year off, the event is back, hosted by comedian Nicole Conlan, a writer on The Daily Show.

The legacy of the carbon footprint

Award categories included The Richard W. Edelman Lifetime Achievement Award for Achieving Shortened Lifetimes, The DEI Award for Definitely Exploiting Individuals, The CEO Award for Contaminated Executive Operations and The Biggest COP-Out.

Ogilvy, winner in the lifetime achievement award category (named after Richard Edelman CEO of PR giant Edelman, who won the award in 2022), was highlighted for the work it’s done for companies including Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, TotalEnergies, Castrol, Petrobras, Masdar, PTT and Adani Group over more than two decades.

“Ogilvy made a lasting impact on climate propaganda by introducing the concept of the carbon footprint to an eager public looking to get high on the myth of personal responsibility,” Conlan said during the livestreamed event.

That campaign, created in 2003, shifted the blame away from oil and gas companies and onto consumers, explained author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, who presented the award.

“The carbon footprint is an effort to make sure that you misidentify the source of the problem,” he explained. “And you then spend your entire time trying to solve it in the least efficient possible way. Americans are individualists to begin with—most Westerners are—and so it’s an easy sell.”

Havas CEO Yannick Bolloré won the CEO award for “contaminated executive operations” for overseeing Havas Media’s winning pitch for the Shell media account and ongoing pursuit of additional business within the oil giant. McCann won the DEI award for “definitely exploiting individuals” for an International Women’s Day campaign that the agency created on behalf of Saudi Aramco.

“This was a very, very crowded category, but we couldn’t resist giving it to the folks at the Saudi government’s personal piggy bank, Saudi Aramco, for having the audacity to celebrate how women drive innovation in a nation where it’s still culturally unacceptable for women to drive,” Conlan said.

In addition to the lifetime achievement award named after Edelman, the company also won in the Biggest COP-Out category for the work it did last year for Adnoc, the state-sponsored oil company of the United Arab Emirates. Edelman worked with both Adnoc and COP28, the 2023 United Nations climate summit hosted in the UAE, and reports showed that the two entities (both helmed by Sultan Al Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) were often indistinguishable.

“We strongly disagree with this characterization of our work,” an Edelman spokesperson told ADWEEK in response to the awards. “We are committed to helping our clients accelerate their climate journeys, including those in the energy sector.  At this critical time, negative provocations about the important work that businesses and organizations that we work with are doing to tackle the climate crisis are unconstructive.”

Havas, McCann and Ogilvy did not immediately respond to ADWEEK’s requests for comment. We’ll update this story with more agency responses if we receive them.

Award presenters included:

  • Kristy Drutman, CEO of the Green Jobs Board and Brown Girl Green
  • Wawa Gatheru, founder of Black Girl Environmentalist
  • Gustav Martner, head of creative at Greenpeace Nordic
  • Rob Mayhew, comedian, writer and head of new business at Movers+Shakers
  • Bill McKibben, author and environmentalist
  • KG Mokgadi, actor, comedian and host of Politically Aweh
  • Jacob Simon, creator of @JacobSimonSays
  • Solitaire Townsend, chief solutionist at sustainability-focused agency Futerra
  • Tori Tsui, activist, speaker and author of It’s Not Just You
  • Qiyun Woo, science communicator at @TheWeirdAndWild

“Whether it’s running into greenwashing complaints, producing some of the most cringe youth content ever, or simply betraying your employees, these winning campaigns show how fossil fuel campaigns are bad for your image and your agency,” Duncan Meisel, executive director of Clean Creatives, said in a statement. “The movement to ditch fossil fuel clients is stronger than ever, and the arguments for sticking with these bad clients has never been weaker.”

The full list of award “winners” can be found on Clean Creatives’ website.

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