Advertising heats up for climate summit

Image from Hopenhagen.org home page

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Kai Ryssdal: This time next week the news will be full of terms like atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The datelines will read Copenhagen, Denmark. Because that's where the United Nations will be holding its big confab on global warming. Nobody really expects anything like a binding treaty to come out of the summit that starts Monday. That doesn't mean you can't market the idea of one. Sarah Gardner reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.


SARAH GARDNER: According to recent polls, only 35 percent of Americans consider global warming a very serious problem. And even those who do take it seriously don't do much about it. Or think they can't.

SETH FARBMAN: That's a branding problem.

Seth Farbman is Worldwide Managing Director at the big ad agency Ogilvy and Mather. These guys have sold everything from Grape Nuts to Dove soap. Now, they're taking a stab at climate change.

HOPENHAGEN AD: I'm a citizen. I'm a citizen of Hopenhagen. I'm a citizen of Hopenhagen.

That's from a worldwide marketing campaign called, as you might guess, "Hopenhagen." It's an effort to drum up support for a global climate change treaty in Copenhagen. Major ad agencies and some of their clients are paying for it. Farbman says if you haven't heard it yet, you will.

FARBMAN: It's on the radio. It's on the Web. It's on Facebook. It's on Twitter.

The Hopenhagen.org Web site urges people to send e-mails to conference delegates to get them to sign a binding treaty. Farbman says they wanted to get past the "gloom and doom" of most climate-change messaging. You know, polar bears floating on melting ice floes, that sort of thing.

FARBMAN: The brand idea is about hope, personal participation and the core idea that people can lead.

Hopenhagen's also not bad for Farbman's agency and other sponsors.

ADAM HANFT: It makes them feel like and be perceived as good corporate citizens, good global citizens.

Adam Hanft runs his own marketing company. He says the obvious play off of Obama's grassroots "HOPE" campaign aims to create a groundswell of public support for a climate treaty. But some folks may not even get the Copenhagen/Hopenhagen thing, says Ed Maibach at George Mason University.

ED MAIBACH: I think that name "Hopenhagen" is probably more or less lost on most Americans. If they're aware of the fact that we're negotiating an international treaty at all my guess is they have no idea where that's happening.

Contrast that with Britain, where the upcoming talks are generating big headlines and the government is running its own ad campaign. It's called "ACT on CO2." As in carbon dioxide, the bad guy of global warming.

CO2 AD: There was once a land where the weather was very, very strange.

That's from the campaign's TV ads. This one features a daddy reading his little girl a scary bedtime story about climate change.

CO2 AD: Is there a happy ending? It's up to us how this story ends. See what you can do. Search online for "ACT on CO2."

The British government got some complaints about that one, mostly from viewers who think global warming's a fairy tale anyway.

Joan Ruddock is the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change. She doesn't shy away from that "gloom and doom" messaging the Hopenhagen folks are trying to avoid.

JOAN RUDDOCK: People need to know this is serious, and it could be very, very dangerous. So we shouldn't hide the message.

Adam Hanft says hopefully something useful will come out of Copenhagen, so the conference doesn't ultimately get branded "Dopenhagen."

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk covering sustainability news spots and features.

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