The push by advertising agencies to abandon big oil customers

here is a Very true statement: Between 2015 and 2019, oil and gas companies doubled the share of their capital spending on renewables and carbon capture technologies. Here is the hunter: This represented less than 1 percent Big Oil’s overall capital investment, according to the International Energy Agency; 99 percent still went to oil and gas.

The additional context paints a very different picture of the investments of fossil fuel companies in green energy. Now, as state and local courts sort ongoing prosecutions against Big Oil for deceive the public on its role in climate change, a new coalition is forming among the public relations and advertising agencies responsible for corporate messaging.

Duncan Meisel is the director of Clean Creatives, a coalition of people in the advertising, public relations and marketing industries for refuse contracts with fossil fuel companies. Meisel says the idea for engagement came after years of working in communications for environmental nonprofits, where progressive messaging campaigns are often countered by petroleum industry talking points of corporations. well-funded public relations.

“Individuals within the creative industry have the power to speak with their leaders, the organizations they work with, and get them to stop promoting the companies most responsible for climate change,” Meisel said. So far, more than 300 individual workers and 120 agencies have signed the pledge.

“Shell could come to us with a million dollar contract, and we’re walking away from it,” says Roger Ramirez, director of growth for New York-based advertising agency Mustache, which signed the pledge more early this year. It’s not an easy decision, says Ramirez, because “the reality is that the company is not designed to support the denial of large potential engagements.”

While Ramirez and others within the agency have long supported social causes, the agency’s parent company, Cognizant, had reservations. With around 60 people, Mustache is a mid-sized agency owned by a multinational parent company that works with fossil fuel companies. In the past, Mustache has accepted some of these contracts as well, making the promise even steeper.

“It was a hindrance for us for sure, and it took a lot of conversation,” said Ramirez, describing months of discussions between the folks at Mustache and Cognizant.

The Mustache team finally won their owners over by linking the Clean Creative commitment to its own previous commitments to diversity and racial justice and arguing that racial justice should include environmental justice and sustainability.

Adam Lerman, Associate Creative Director of Mustache and President of Sustainability, says most advertising agencies are structured the same way, which means sustainability commitments, whether big or small, mean convincing superiors. Lerman suggests starting the conversation by focusing on how the goals of leadership align with the cause, even if they don’t realize it.

“If you can identify that common interest and provide some legitimate, verifiable evidence that says, ‘Hey, this thing we care about is related to this other thing, and we’re actually hypocrites if we do A and B at the same. time ”, that might be one way to get in.

Since 2017, several state and local governments have been involved in ongoing legal battles with oil and gas companies, accusing them of misleading the public about the role of fossil fuels in climate change. Although no advertising agency was named as the defendant, the complaints specify 15 campaigns as misleading, which means that the agencies that created the campaigns could be drawn into the case.

In August, the American Association of Advertising Agencies directives issued to agencies to avoid greenwashing, underscoring the Federal Trade Commission standard of having “reliable evidence” to support environmental claims. Alison Pepper, executive vice president of government relations for the group, says there is a “gap” between the FTC’s rules on “reliable evidence” to support a claim and consumer expectations. She says the group has urged the FTC to further clarify its rules on environmental claims aimed at reducing greenwashing.

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