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An Extinction Rebellion protester
courtesy of Instagram/@extinctionrebellion

Climate change activists turn their focus to the ad industry

“You didn’t think we’d forget about you?” asks Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion, the international activist group that brought London to a standstill with its climate change protests last month and has since carried on with various actions across the globe, has turned its focus to the advertising industry.

In a new, public letter, the group calls out “Founders, CEOs, CCOs, CMOs, CFOs, MDs and CDs of the advertising industry”, saying: “You didn’t think we’d forget about you?”

The authors of the open letter – who are, as one tells The Drum, people with years of experience within the ad industry – then go on to outline the dire state of the planet, which has been acknowledged in the UK with the declaration of a climate emergency. “We’re not on the verge of the Sixth Mass Extinction,” they write. “We’re in it.”

They aren’t pulling any punches when it comes to addressing the ad industry’s role in the decline, either, writing: “One of the reasons we’ve got here is because you’ve been selling things to people that they don’t need. You are the manipulators and architects of that consumerist frenzy.”

And when suggesting what the letter’s addressees can do to help, they say: “No, making a small campaign to give up drinking from plastic straws is not going to cut it. Neither is doing some pro-bono for an anti-palm oil initiative.” These statements are particularly hard-hitting in the wake of a UN assessment that states the only way we can hope to stave off complete climate breakdown is through “transformative change”.

While political legislation is probably the most direct way to fight climate change, the implication of the ad industry in this letter is also self-evidently necessary. The role of capitalism – an ideology founded upon often unnecessary consumption – in today’s climate crisis is all too obvious. It’s time, as Extinction Rebellion suggest, that the ones responsible do something about it.

Referencing famous ad slogans, the letter concludes: “You have an extraordinary moment to be on the right side of history. That’s not something that can get postponed to Q3. It needs action right now. Just Do It. Be All That You Can Be. Impossible Is Nothing. We’re here to support you in this vital transition.”