Weren’t we supposed to be the good guys?
Advertising alleviated the pain of the Sisyphean tragedy of modern capitalism. Advertising taught the world how to want. Advertising gave the notion of free will and choices when it comes to consumption. It made the powerless feel powerful, that their choices, their consumption mattered. The consumptive soma that advertising created, filled the world with euphoria, making people forget about the differences that divided them, for a while. The promise of abundance, growth, prosperity united the world in a beautiful hope.
But in the process, it also helped wreck the planet, helped remorse-less industries harming people/ planet put up a human face, and generally aided the self-image and bad-diet crisis.
`And if that wasn’t enough, advertising world has to contend with its role in bringing humanity to the brink – there is growing consensus that unless we change our ways drastically in next 18 months, societies will collapse inevitable due to environmental catastrophe. And as of now, we are on the dark side. We are helping fuel the climate change denial by enabling smokescreens, we are encouraging consumptive behaviour, we are enabling companies ‘manage their image’ in bad faith and we are giving consumers the false hope of sustainable consumptive choices.
It’s time we reckon our role in climate change. Advertising industry has been instrumental in globalised capitalism. It was the soft power, that ensured that hard power was never needed to win new markets to grow like never before. But that project is over now. Same levels of growth for businesses will come at the expense of humanity’s probable extinction.
Capitalism is the creator and destroyer of worlds. And advertising is one of its most prized deputies. It is time for the deputy to check both sides of its master – unchecked creation IS destruction.
It’s time for its deputy to convince its capitalist masters that their survival is at stake, not just others’.
We now have 18 months for the great capitalist machinery of this planet to self-reflect critically and change its ways. The way the world is going, it is likely that not much will change in the next two years, apart from the climate of course.
“it is time we consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today.”Jem Bendell, Deep Adaptation
The de-stabilizing forces that we have unleashed on the planet are multiplying exponentially. The ensuing feedback loops of the chaotic system we call climate is going to leave most of humanity in tatters, soon enough.
We could plead ignorance in the last century. But what is the excuse now?
So here’s what we need to do.
1. Accept complicity in creating consumptive culture. Understand that it is not sustainable.
2. Accept that we have been opportunistic with interpretation of business goals – we help companies build opportunist narratives by leveraging humanist insights. we allow companies to remain inhumane by helping create humanist facade for them.
3. Accept that we have the opportunity to influence brand leaders and consumers in being more mindful and more active in our quest to increase probability of survival for most humans.
4. Accept that peddling tokenism, promoting purpose or social marketing – are counterproductive.
Check my denial
- Climate change is real. The change is not linear. As the situation worsens, it will worsen faster. And it is unpredictable.
So STOP taking projects that contribute to climate change denial.
- We will be seeing its adverse impact within our lifetimes. Our life is being impacted by it even now. There is more than enough evidence for it. Search at reputed sources of scientific information for it.
- Avoid conservative/ right-wing media. They might say what you want to hear. But it doesn’t make it true. They are becoming wealthy at the expense of our ignorance and our lack of courage to entertain truth.
- There isn’t a category of products that is untouched by issue of climate change. Any thing that is consumed – product/ service will have a footprint in environment. It is time to be mindful of your role in propagating consumption in any of those categories.
From clothes, soaps, liquor, social networks to hospitals and psychiatric clinics… growth in every category leads to consumption of resources which leads to environmental footprint – possibly detrimental.
- We advertising folks are masters of re-framing, reorienting the perspective for convenience. we can justify most decisions on moral grounds by bringing up other issues, by employing what-aboutery. Perhaps you can turn the question regarding consumption into an issue of free will – choice to consume freely, or into an issue of inequality – time for the underprivileged to consume now, or about gender issue – this face cream is about inner beauty… and so on. But know that these arguments are in ‘bad faith‘. (We really need to understand this concept.)
Understand bad faith and try not to do anything in bad faith.
- We cry insignificance and point to the might daddy corporate which really runs the show. we say, if not me, someone else will… and that’s how the world ends.
Clients are smart people. They aren’t always reasonable and they know the value in being so. After all, it is we who have cultivated the culture that entertains their unreasonable, no-questions asked poodling. They are used to people doing their bidding through the numerous agencies they hire. agency for manufacturing, for marketing, for R&D, for supply chain, for management…for everything. They are so far removed from the real world that they need research agencies to conduct researches to know their consumers. They are so far removed from the effect they cause in the lives of their consumer that they genuinely come from a place of ignorance. We agencies have a perspective though.
We shouldn’t selectively project ignorance to protect our culpability.
There’s no alternative to engaging with clients in ‘good faith’ about their impact on climate.
- Lastly, the world is never going to be the same again. The new world will not be about abundance and unlimited choices. Geo-engineering, genetic engineering, flying to another planet are not realistic choices. The new world needs a new perspective.
Resilience, Relinquishment & Restoration
I highly recommend reading this to start with – http://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf
...what we face is a complex predicament beyond our control. Rather, I hope the deep adaptation agenda of resilience, relinquishment and restoration can be a useful framework for community dialogue in the face of climate change.Deep Adaptation
Resilience asks us “how do we keep what we really want to keep?” Relinquishment asks us “what do we need to let go of in order to not make matters worse?”
Restoration asks us “what can we bring back to help us with the coming difficulties and tragedies?”
To survive as species, we need this new mindful approach. Exponential growth is not sustainable. We had it good for a while. But now it time for change. So how can advertising agencies change?
These questions can guide us in our brand building, comms approach by keeping the context of broader society in our minds. We can’t afford to see our work in isolation from the rest of the world.
The question of resilience helps us reflect – Is this project really something that we want to see existing in 20 years?
The question of relinquishment helps us appreciate that in the coming decades many among us will have to give up something important – perhaps someone’s home, livelihood, way of being… Are our actions helping other people or are they aggravating their situation?
The question of restoration helps us look back and see for inspiration in our past. What and How can we help restore?
What you read are my raw thoughts. I still need to read, learn and build on these ideas. I would appreciate any leads to help me do so.
I am looking for opportunities to partner with organisations in the space of raising climate change awareness. Again, would appreciate any leads.