Confronted by the Australian wildfires, the ad industry and brands need to act with optimism, writes CHE Proximity CCO Ant White
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in the CHE offices in Sydney on the waterfront. Pier 9 has a great view of the harbour bridge. But not today. Not for the last month. Recently, the 80,000 tons of iron ore on the skyline has been obliterated by a smoke haze. Yet us marketing people in our fancy offices aren’t the only one’s suffering. Air quality has reached toxic levels on a regular basis, with the vision of face masks becoming not just a common occurrence but a necessity for everyone. Global warming is so absolutely, undeniably, real and tangible that it’s making us trip over in our own streets.
This season’s bushfires have dragged global warming squarely to our doorstep. The rapid nature of fires, and the fierce force of the flames is a really scary and powerful symbol that somehow make it more real and sadly more tangible than melting icecaps and coral bleaching. Fires conjure up something primal within us. More than one billion animals have been wiped out. On January 4th fires in Penrith outside of Sydney achieved the highest temperature on Earth that day – 48.9c, bringing into question the habitability of Australia. Even climate change deniers can see we have a job to do.
The best campaigns from the last decade rallied us and created tension in the world. The New York Times ‘The Truth’ called out fake news, and ‘Nike, dream crazy’ stood up to Trump. The world needed this work at the time.
Yet, this decade already feels different. For one, it’s the last decade we can do anything about global warming before it’s too late. According to the UN we have 10 years left until the damage we’ve done is irreversible.
The truth is that the fires have changed us. In the face of the dark news headlines, there is an unbridled optimism and positivity that people are embracing. It’s a youthful energy that is seeing people engage and ‘do’ something. As an industry, we need to lean into this energy. We need to show the way, and act. Not simply by band wagoning, or grandstanding, but by taking action. We need to work with our clients to find smart solutions. We need to support people, inspire people, and show the world a way out of this mess.
Now is the time to act.
People everywhere are rolling up their sleeves. Not traditional powers. Not government or official bodies, but real people, ordinary people. Firies, volunteers, community workers, comedians raising money on social media, every coffee shop, café, and celebrity is getting involved.
We need to be optimistic about the future. Not uneducated optimism, but fact-based optimism that shows hope. Because if we come together, as people, as brands, as one, human ingenuity and determination will win.