The current climate emergency is a challenge that requires individual and collective effort, and the industry of design and advertising has a huge responsibility and power to contribute to accelerate change. Many initiatives in the field are organising themselves to turn the tide. Some of them were part of our 8th Festival, Creating Visibility (don’t miss Creatives for Climate, Clean Creatives, Creatives for the Future and Purpose Disruptors presentations).
As well as giving a platform to these initiatives to build community around them, the effort the industry is making to amplify key messages and influence consumers has been revealing itself in our Awards for years. This increasing presence of campaigns that focus on the environmental crisis, together with the urgency of the topic, led us to create a Special Award across all categories, our Green Star. The award aims to recognise and foreground excellence in the promotion of circular economy, sustainability, or the protection of the environment.
It’s first recipient, the campaign “Eurythenes Plasticus” by BBDO Germany, is a piece that creates action and attention to highlight the depth of our ocean plastic problem. It involved naming a new deep-sea species after the plastic found inside its body, in collaboration with a scientific body. Following all the media attention, they rolled out a cross-platform campaign that encouraged people to sign a petition asking for a legally binding global UN agreement to put an end to marine plastic pollution.
We have interviewed Christian Korntheuer and Andy Wyeth from BBDO Germany, to learn some insights on the inspiration, process and impact of the campaign:
Who came with the idea of naming the species “Eurythenes plasticus”?
It was a team effort. One thought led to another and finally paved the way for naming a new species after the plastic that contaminates it.
How did you start the conversation with the scientific team?
It took a lot of emailing to eventually find Dr. Alan Jamieson. Once we found him it wasn’t very difficult to convince him so once he was onboard the project came together quite quickly.
Was there any challenge to collaborate with them considering the creative aspect of the endeavour?
The biggest challenge was certainly regular communication. Since we were working with one of the leading scientists in the field of deep-sea research, our communication was often dictated by his research trips and the lack of internet connection out at sea. This made coordination difficult at times.
I see one of the main scientists involved is the voice-over of the ad, how did that come about?
We had the chance to meet up with Dr. Alan Jamieson and his student at the time Johanna Weston in Newcastle to interview them on a range of questions concerning the topic. Since we were meeting him anyway, we prepared a narrative that we asked him to speak. At the end of the interview, we found a quiet lab room at the University and got him to do a series of different takes of the text into our microphone. We ended up loving it so much, especially mixed with the orchestra music that we used it for the final cinema film.
Did you expect the mediatic impact of the campaign?
Of course, we had hoped for a big impact, but when it happened, we were still overwhelmed by the enormous attention our campaign received. The campaign launched at the worst possible time in March 2020 when the Corona pandemic was dominating the media but still our story managed to get a huge amount of traction. We can only imagine what would have happened had the campaign dropped a few months earlier.
Has the global UN agreement to put an end to marine plastic pollution happened yet? How is the petition going?
The petition has over two million signatures and has been fed by multiple campaigns such as ours. The WWF are in close talks with the UN and most countries are in favour of the treaty. We will keep a close eye on how this develops and keep our fingers crossed that an agreement is made to protect our oceans from the onslaught of our plastic.
It’s the first edition of this Green Star Award, which is dedicated to foreground pieces that promote sustainability and the protection of the environment. Have you worked on other projects in this realm before? If so, can you share?
We also have collaborated with the WWF in the past for our idea the “Ant Rally”. We used leaf cutter ants to stage a protest demonstration against the felling of the Amazonian rainforest. We did this by taking the leaves they carry naturally and cutting protest messages into the leaves. This idea also generated a lot of media attention.
Which pieces are references for you in the field of advertising for social / environmental change?
We really liked the campaign for Salla, the self-proclaimed coldest town in Finnish Lapland that announced that it will bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics as part of an awareness-building campaign to draw attention to the consequences of global warming.
We’re also found the case of the trash isles very inspiring. The campaign refers to the fact that the Pacific Ocean’s “Trash Isles”, where waste has accumulated, fill a space the size of France and asks the United Nations to recognize ocean plastic as a country.
The Palau Pledge is also one of our favourites. Such a great idea to make protecting the islands part of the legal documents you sign when entering the country. An ingenious way to utilise the tourists that the islands attract for the collective good.