Snowmen Migrate North to Colder Weather in Quirky Mockumentary About Climate Change

A lighter approach to a grave problem

In the meadow, we can build a snowman … can't we?

Rising temperatures resulting from climate change can put the kibosh on such seasonal fun. And more important, increasing heat threatens all manner of species on planet Earth, including human beings.

That's the message of "Save Our Snowmen," a public-service campaign dropping today from Cool Effect, an online crowdfunding platform that backs carbon-reduction initiatives.

Developed by San Francisco ad shop Swirl, the work places its chilly tongue firmly in cheek—and imagines a horde of snowmen on the road, in search of colder climes. "Their habitat is threatened, their hope is dwindling," we learn in the trailer below:

Jeez, couldn't that pickup driver give those frosty folks a lift? Too bad they didn't have a slush fund for airfare to Alaska.

"We want to capture people's attention and highlight the startling statistics on climate change, and the beloved icon of snowmen made the perfect metaphor," Cool Effect marketing chief Jodi Manning tells AdFreak. "The snowmen represent the many species—animals and birds—that are going extinct, as well as the humans around the globe that are becoming refugees due to climate change."

Next comes the campaign's centerpiece, a three-and-a-half-minute mockumentary that follows the snowmen's migration to a special "sanctuary" up north, complete with karaoke nights and marshmallow roasts around the campfire. (Whoa, Frosty, don't get too close to those flames!)

Actually, those frozen freaks look kind of creepy—and they're peeved with us about global warming. Maybe it's a good thing they move at a glacial pace, or else they'd chase us down and enact their icy revenge by beating us senseless with their corncob pipes.

"We knew the snowmen would need to move to pull viewers in," says Manning. "The talented artists at [VFX house] Framestore added so many unique touches to emphasize the motion and make it look realistic. My favorite scene is the snowmen in the field when the truck zips by them. We laughed at the authenticity of the smallest snowman racing to catch up with the group."

She adds, "The scene in the diner where the snow couple is outside the window produced a lot of debate: How should they move, what should they wear, and how would we size them to scale? We looked at different types of motion—one moving faster, one ahead of the other—and finally got it right by creating movement that closely mimics how human couples interact."

Will New Yorkers warm to the anthropomorphic snowman gambit? Orange Is the New Black star Alysia Reiner hosted launch festivities at Manhattan's World Trade Center today. That NYC push includes "snowmen ambassadors" tooling around town in a double-decker bus. Because … well, why the hell not? They'll take selfies with Gothamites, and since this is #GivingTuesday, for every social share, Cool Effect will contribute $1 to the cause.

At the end of the mockumentary, a voiceover informs viewers that "for just $10, you too can make a real difference. The planet can't wait—and neither can he." On screen, a once-proud snowman slumps into a muddy puddle, its eyes of coal sinking sadly toward the ground.

Overall, it's an odd mix of serious issues and absurdist humor. Yes, the jokes get a bit strained, and the clip could be trimmed by a minute for greater impact. Still, the visuals are compelling, even haunting at times. And the tone is urgent but never preachy, well modulated to melt resistance and inspire donations from the faithful.

"We have to reduce carbon pollution, and we have to do it now," says Manning. "It's going to take all of us. We cannot wait for government or businesses. We have to take action and fight climate change today."

How will Cool Effect gauge the campaign's effectiveness? "The only success will be cooling temperatures," she says.


Client: Cool Effect

Director of Marketing: Jodi Manning

Title: "Save Our Snowmen"

Creative AOR: Swirl

EVP, Head of Marketing: Greg Johnson

EVP, Executive Creative Director: Kevin McCarthy

Group Account Director: Chris Chaya

Creative Director: Brian Shown

Creative Director: Kurt Herr

Senior Art Director: Matthieu Brajot

Copywriter: Justin Kramm

Broadcast Producer: Elissa Polls

Production company: Tool of North America

Director: Shawn Z.

Executive producer: Robert Helphand

Post-production supervisor: Tracy Helphand

Line producer: Dennis Beer

Editorial: NO6

Producer:  Yole Barrera

Editors: Dan Aronin & Chan Hatcher

VFX & Color: Framestore

Producer: Morenike Dosu

Music: MAS

PR + Social AOR: Demonstrate PR

Managing Director: Joey Hodges

Sr. Account Executive PR: Victoria Rainone

Sr. Social Content Manager: Cody Goins 

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.