Action 5: Harness Advertising’s Power To Support Consumer Behaviour Change
Ad Net Zero will ask the UK ad industry, through its engagement with this plan, to put Climate Action at the heart of its work to help change consumer behaviour. Initiatives like #ChangetheBrief should be adopted to provide advertisers with more sustainable solutions to their campaign briefs. At the same time, Ad Net Zero extends its offer to the Government to provide meaningful support through advertising to encourage consumer behaviour change in the run-up to COP26 in November 2021 and beyond.
Advertising’s influence on the wider world is a hugely important pillar of Ad Net Zero. Our ambition is that agencies and their clients should increasingly work together to use advertising to promote more sustainable choices between competing products and services, to back innovations that deliver greener solutions to people’s needs and desires, and to persuade society to adopt behaviours that reduce carbon emissions. Half of those responding to Credos’ industry survey ranked ‘influencing consumers to behave more sustainably’ as the most important climate action that organisations in our industry can take.
Sustainable Marketing Approaches
To achieve this, we need a determined effort across the board to influence the policies and decisions of advertisers toward more sustainable marketing approaches. One such effort is #ChangetheBrief, an initiative created at Mindshare and promoted to the wider industry by the Purpose Disruptors. Acknowledging that agencies – strategic, creative and media alike – have a duty to serve their clients to the best of their abilities, #ChangetheBrief mandates that, when briefed by a client, agencies present an additional response that encourages a sustainable behaviour or attitude in the client‘s audience.
The Great Reset, another initiative driven by the Purpose Disruptors, invited the industry to reset during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. To reset our work, to reset what we create and to reset our impact. In an industry first, over 300 people from 30 competing agencies contributed to a campaign, launched in Autumn 2020, that encouraged people to maintain the new environmentally positive behaviours adopted during lockdown.
Our industry produces work that connects with millions of people every single day, providing useful information on all aspects of the way we live our lives. It is within our hands to increasingly make sure this work highlights behaviour change that has a real positive impact on the climate. Everybody working in advertising can make a genuine contribution to this effort. We believe this is a powerful reason for people to work in advertising, to grasp the opportunity to make a real difference.
Agencies and other marketing service companies can go further: they can decline to work for clients whose businesses or policies they feel conflict with their own principles. Some do. But constructive engagement, using their influence and relationships to create strategies, campaigns and media plans that not only can reduce the carbon impact of the advertising itself, but also inspire consumers to make more sustainable purchasing and lifestyle decisions, is something all agencies can do.
In terms of the regulation of advertising, CAP codes and ASA regulation already cover the need for clarity, substantiation and evidence for environmental claims. The ASA has recently committed to a broader review of its responsibilities around climate change and human impact on the environment.
Working with Government
There is also a role for our industry to work with Government to the same end. The challenges posed during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant advertisers across the board have adapted their campaigns. Not only did advertising during this period reflect difficult national circumstances, but it also reinforced the Government’s key public health messaging as the country sought to come together. This approach has proven popular with the public and served a wider purpose in keeping people safe. A key example of this is the ‘Enjoy Summer Safely’ campaign.
This begs the question how can advertising work with the Government on an even bigger societal issue – that of the climate emergency? All within the framework of two key considerations. The first is that the UK will host COP26 and so needs to take a lead on the world stage in a moment which has been likened to a ‘green’ Olympics. Secondly, the Government is pursuing a ‘green recovery’ from the coronavirus crisis. Advertising can play an important role in both of these.
Firstly, work is underway with the COP26 organising team to look at how the industry can amplify Government messaging to the UK public about the event. Guidance for the industry to mark key moments in the run-up and how brands can get involved will be developed by the Climate Action Working Group and published on the Advertising Association’s website in its Climate Action section.
Secondly, since the establishment of the Advertising Association’s Climate Action Groups, industry representatives have met with officials from both the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Cabinet Office, in order to establish a collaborative partnership going forward. Key developments such as the launch of AdGreen have been fed into the Government’s plans to look at how the UK delivers the best ‘green recovery’ possible. Those meetings will continue into 2021 and the Climate Action Groups will continue to share examples of best practice and ways the industry can support the UK’s climate action ambitions.