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As part of Ad Age’s weekly Marketer’s Brief podcast, on a monthly basis, we will explore the best and worst purpose marketing ads with Thomas Kolster, founder and creative director at Copenhagen-based Goodvertising Agency, which advises companies and organizations on how to turn environmental, societal and health risks into market opportunities. Below, Kolster’s opinions on some recent campaigns.
Cancer-fighting nonprofit German Cancer Aid highlights the risk of getting melanomas from the sun with a new campaign from the agency Heimat Berlin. The nonprofit created what it calls the world’s first sun warning flag. Similar to regular beach warning flags, this flag is designed to be raised when the UV index reaches a critical level.
The flag’s design features a black sun (see image above)—which is a nod to the fact that melanoma comes from the ancient Greek word for black, as pointed out by Creative Review magazine’s coverage of the effort. The group submitted the idea to International Organisation for Standardization (ISO), with the goal of it being implemented worldwide.
Said Kolster: “When we do our work really, really well as agencies or clients, we actually get to create that behavior change at that exact right time. I can see myself lying on the beach and not thinking about UV rays…because you are there at the beach probably drinking a Corona having fun, and then you see that black flag coming up. I think it’s a brilliant piece of communication that shows what we can do as an industry.”
In a campaign called “Nature or Nothing” that ran in Mexico, Mercedes sought to promote electric vehicles with images from nature that resembled the design of its three-pointed star logo—such as a lion’s mouth or leaf veins. But environmental groups quickly accused the company of greenwashing and hijacked the campaign, which was credited to Leo Burnett.
A group called Wherefrom, which scores products on their sustainability, ran its own version of the campaign, depicting the Mercedes logo design inside pictures showing the environmental impact of climate change, like fires, storms and drought. The agency London’s 10 Days was behind the campaign. In an Instagram post, the group alluded to lawsuit activists have filed against Mercedes parent Daimler for not doing enough to combat climate change.
A post shared by wherefrom (@wherefrom_uk)
Kolster called the Mercedes ad “out of touch” adding that it is an example of brands “hijacking nature imagery.”
“It’s a pretty far-fetched thing from this industrialized product to talk about nature. Let’s get real,” he said.
Mercedes has taken issue with the criticism, telling the Drum magazine that “The original claim of the Mexican Earth Day communication was Spanish ’Nuestro futuro siempre ha estado aquí’ (EN: ’Our future has always been here’). We did not create nor approve the English claim ’nature or nothing.’”
Kolster’s other miss comes from the airline Lufthansa, which is out with a campaign from DDB Munich called “Make Change Fly.” The effort promotes attempts by the airline to modernize its fleet with more environmentally friendly aircraft with the goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.
Said Kolster: “There’s nothing in that ad that flies at all.” The spot, he says “fails the dinner party test,” adding “they are saying all these things …and it just doesn’t come off you would really talk about that way.”
“Don’t bring nature into this,” he said (referring back to the Mercedes ad.) “It’s a clear miss.”
In this article:
E.J. Schultz is the News Editor for Ad Age, overseeing breaking news and daily coverage. He also contributes reporting on the beverage, automotive and sports marketing industries. He is a former reporter for McClatchy newspapers, including the Fresno Bee, where he covered business and state government and politics.