FEED: Do we have to start thinking about advertising in a completely new way?
JD: We’ve got to be honest about some of these issues. Humans are experts in cognitive dissonance and ignorance – because ultimately somebody’s making money somewhere. That’s not to say we need to ban advertising, or switch off capitalism, but we have been very good at pushing away a problem because it’s too difficult to deal with. We want simple answers for what are very complex problems, rather than actually trying to understand
the issues and being transparent about them. Let’s be honest about who’s causing these issues, then deal with them together. People are waking up to it, but we’re still currently on course for 2.4°C.
“HUMANS ARE EXPERTS IN COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND IGNORANCE”
FEED: How can industries identify and solve problems often distributed across very complicated workflows?
JD: Radical collaboration is so important. Nobody understands the whole problem. We live in enormously complex, interdependent, globalised systems of communities, cities and nations. You can’t hope to understand all of the bigger picture, which is why a spirit of open collaboration and learning is key. One of the best things we’ve done at the Conscious Advertising Network – a coalition of over 70 organisations I co-founded with Harriet Kingaby to promote industry
than getting just the agencies or brands together, we’ve got agencies, brands and ad tech all mixing – but then we’ve also brought in human rights specialists, with climate and public health scientists. The industry is excellent at talking within the advertising sector and sort of patting each other on the back, saying: ‘That piece of creativity was so amazing.’ But it doesn’t seem to talk to campaigners or activists very much – those who really understand that problem. Welcoming people in, who might know more about it than you, is vital.
ethics – is to have that spirit of unusual collaborations. Rather
BAD IDEAS An advert for Lush plays before a video platforming climate crisis denial
FEED: How can the creativity of the advertising industry be harnessed for positive change?
JD: The Advertising Association have the Ad Net Zero initiative, helping you understand how much carbon is being used in a shoot, or how much you’re using in media plans – but it’s also about creativity in a sustainable way. Are you presenting sustainable behaviours that we want to see? Because if you have a carbon-neutral shoot and a carbon-neutral media plan – and your business is carbon neutral – but
the product you are advertising is greenwashing for Saudi Aramco, you are essentially rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. At the Conscious Advertising Network, we’ve just launched our seventh climate and sustainability manifesto. One of the things we talked about is sustainable behaviours in the content of the ads. You don’t have to be a clean energy company to show sustainable
behaviours. But you can be tone deaf, especially in a cost-of-living crisis, if you’re showing expensive behaviours like driving a new EV. Massive thought needs to go into every piece of content, so you’re not showing unsustainable consumption we’ve done in past influencer videos: ‘I’ve gone shopping and look at all this stuff.’ That’s not responsible from either a cost-of-living, nor sustainability stance.
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