Transparent use of dirty money
In the last few weeks, Shell has made headlines with news of their targeting of younger audiences through gaming and social media platforms. They’ve been applying Shell branded petrol stations into customized racecourses on Fortnite, sponsoring influencers live streaming, playing on Twitch. Also, other influencers and sports celebrities.
These attempts appear to be a concerted move to build brand relationships and positive association with a younger generation. But they seem very misguided too, as it is young people that are the most switched on concerning the climate crisis, with 70% of under 18s most likely to “believe that climate change is a global emergency” (UNDP’s People’s Climate Vote).
It appears naïve to think that young people don’t know that fossil fuel companies and big oil are the problem and key contributors to the crisis, that by infiltrating the Shell brand into people’s everyday activities of gaming and social media scrolling, they can build positive brand perception.
The naivete comes from influencers too, those working with Shell. Whilst there might be financial appeal working with Shell, they may not understand the full extent of risk management needed. In the short-term, working with Shell might offer lucrative pay and profile exposure and increase, but, in the long term it is damaging.
Next level of scrutiny
In the first ruling of its kind, the Advertising Standards Authority banned Toyota’s latest “Born To Roam” campaign. The ruling was on the grounds that it didn’t uphold the authorities rules on social responsibility to the environment. This ASA ruling is a clear warning for all brands to think about every level of their impact. Previously, the focus has been on the macro impact of manufacturing, however, this is the first example of tougher regulation on a micro level. The focus isn’t just on the big fossil fuel giants and their impact. It’s now moving into a level below, and as scrutiny becomes more microscopic – brands and businesses need to look at every step of their process.
Automotive brands sell an aspiration, but this is a clear indicator that what was once an aspiration is no longer acceptable. Brands selling a lifestyle need to work out how to adapt. Particularly in the automotive sector, the challenge will be unraveling standard tropes and re-setting and re-building the aspiration, and communicating that effectively.
Most powerful tool in toolbox
Recently, we’ve seen a spate of exciting and powerful ads that are brilliant examples of the power of satire. There are many different ways to bring issues to light, and as these ads show, satire done well is the most powerful tool in the toolbox.
The first example of this is the fake agency, Atmospheric, created by climate campaigners Glimpse, satirist and musician Oli Frost and climate comms lab Utopia Bureau, publicising it’s “pitch” for the Saudi Aramco account. Its power lies in its execution – it’s slick and smart. It captured the attention of the industry, and in doing so lands its point powerfully. As Glimpse’s founder James Turner says: “This website is completely ridiculous. But it’s nowhere near as absurd as pitching for the world’s most polluting companies while pretending to have a meaningful policy on climate change. Agencies must decide which is more important to them: their reputation or fossil fuel clients. They can’t have both.”
The Make Money Matter advert that made headlines this week, and went viral across social media, is another example of the power of satire. System 1’s analysis charts the emotional response, the increasing anger, disgust and sadness indicates the power of the advert. Satire taps into a distrust with the “others”, and so if used well can enable businesses and brands to start a movement. This is a best in class example that inspires. It empowers the viewer and gives you the confidence that you’re on the “right side.” It also gives you the education and license to have the conversations and make change. With added celebrity power, featuring Olivia Colman, it has a monumental impact.