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'Agencies Need to Rediscover Their Agency' - D&AD Hosts Debate on Industry’s Role in Climate Crisis


Panellists included representatives from Extinction Rebellion, Wieden+Kennedy, Mindshare, TBWA, LADBible and Pentagram

'Agencies Need to Rediscover Their Agency' - D&AD Hosts Debate on Industry’s Role in Climate Crisis

Last Wednesday night, D&AD hosted ‘Our Toughest Brief Yet’, an event that brought together leading figures in the advertising and creative industries for a debate on positive solutions to the climate crisis and how the collective industry can take responsibility and action. The event included panellists representing Extinction Rebellion, Purpose Disruptors and many industry leaders.

September is set to be a particularly pertinent month for the climate crisis, with the UN Climate Action Summit and further strikes around the world taking place. With the skills to inspire people and expertise in influencing consumer behaviour, the creative industries and brands are well-placed to help shape a sustainable society, and the need for collective action is clear.

The debate saw passionate discussion on how creatives and advertisers can best move forward. The panellists shared their recommendations for how companies can get involved. These include:

• For every brief that comes into your agency, include sustainability at the heart of your response

• You can choose to not work for clients you don’t believe in. Or, you can use your position to try to change the way your client approaches sustainability

• If you are not in a position to impact the work you are doing for clients, take on pro bono work to get the good out there

• Challenge your clients directly about their carbon footprint

• Employees should feel empowered to encourage positive change within the workplace, regardless of seniority. Talk to your CEO about joining the global climate strikes - such as Create and Strike - or simply operating more sustainably

• Hold your business and stakeholders to account and form an employee benefits trust, with the goals being to incentivise employees and managers to meet sustainable goals

• Focus 20% of your work week on innovation, for example, by applying your skills and expertise to Fridays for Future, making Fridays a day of mass planetary action

• Join Purpose Disruptors, a network of advertising insiders whose goal is to create a visible, large scale, bottom up movement within the industry that will act in solidarity to meaningfully tackle climate change

• Know your audience and what they’ll respond to. Sometimes a hard-hitting fact will work, while others may need more of an 'arm around the shoulder' approach to get the message across

• Adjust the timescale. Planning for 2022 is too far off. We need to implement change now, in the work we are doing now, as the clock is running out and we’re wasting time we don’t have

Natalie Graeme, Uncommon London, said: “We can choose not to take the briefs. We could choose to not make certain companies more famous. [...] That is a hard pill for all of us to swallow because actually it does [affect] jobs, it does [limit] what briefs are going around, but I think we do have a choice to be able to select those companies we believe who are doing it right that we should be getting behind and putting our power behind.”

Peter Souter, TBWA\London, said: “Three years ago you would go into a pub and stink of cigarettes when you came out. It is possible to make people make changes immediately [...]. Make it now. Make it affect this week. It just takes really powerful communications. So I would say to those who just started working in the business, don’t give up, but use your powers for good.”

William Skeaping, Extinction Rebellion, said: “Come and work from the streets. You know how to hot desk, get an internet connection, block a road. Everyone in the entire creative industries get out there, take over a big chunk of town. Do your bit and make your mark. Make it the creative, exciting, vibrant thing it is and get your CEOs to change. And if your CEOs don’t change, change your CEOs, because it can’t go on. People in power, if they are not doing their job, then they’ve got to go. It’s that simple.”

Patrick Burgoyne, D&AD Trustee, commented: "We were proud to host this event and facilitate the much-needed discussion around the climate crisis. It is vital that all industries, including our own, focus on the collective responsibility and action. We need to reflect on our own practices and ways of working to consider what more we can do to face the challenge head-on. We each have a valuable contribution to offer, such as having difficult conversations, sharing ideas and exploring creative solutions. D&AD Impact is just a piece of the puzzle. Going forward, we hope it will continue to grow and develop as a benchmark for how creative excellence can be utilised to support and contribute to the movement."

The event took place as the entries for D&AD Impact draw to a close. D&AD Impact recognises ideas with creative thinking at their core, elevating purposeful products, initiatives and campaigns with the intention to drive meaningful change. Entries for the 2019 D&AD Impact Awards are open until 25 September.

To show specific support for the movement, D&AD have also announced that they will be joining the Global Climate Strike on 20 September, with their offices closed for the day.

A full video of the panel discussion at ‘Our Toughest Brief Yet’ is available to watch online here.

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