In semi-defense of advertising on Earth Day.
On his passing The New York Times wrote this headline;
Julian Koenig, Who Sold Americans on Beetles and Earth Day, Dies at 93.
To be the Guy who came up with Earth Day and Think Small is a remarkable legacy. At the time of seeing the first photos of our home planet in full, Joni Mitchell singing Woodstock, passage of civil rights legislation and The Wilderness Act, we had enough time then, to heed scientist’s major warnings of climate change and much to feel hopeful for.
Somehow along the way the virtue of sharing and simplicity became passé. But more recently, perhaps of necessity, a younger generation is discovering the practicality of less is more, as in a deeper connection to things they value.
Creative people like Julian and the other writers and art directors of the Mad Men era managed to make wit, the desired commodity.
I’d like to believe enough of us want to see our country and the world stop the climate catastrophe and that this crisis will awaken the necessary response. That wit, talent and simple honesty will reappear with sufficient force now that we need it most.
Advertising is a changed business as much as any other today in one very important way. Corporations no longer see their main purpose to serve the best interests of customers or country, at least in the main. And to be fair there are philanthropic aspects of commerce and market efficiencies are sought. But no surprise here – profits trump humanity. And that has no place in a quarterly earnings statement – the businessperson’s report card. The only reason to be green is if it makes money.
A t-shirt my daughter bought me during the Gap RED campaign reads;
CHOOSE 2 BUY,
OR NOT 2 BUY CAN
Change buy to sell and It should hang in every corporate boardroom.
You might say social engineering has been what advertising has been up to all along unwittingly having arrived at this frightful moment. And though pundits rail at the suggestion of “mind-control” mankind is quite capable of creating a successful response to energy use. With cleverness, persuasion, improvisation, fury, love, faith, comedy, art, science, music and every motivational tool and a whole lot more than good intentions.
Industrial nations must confront their primary role in undertaking the planet’s sixth extinction and find ways to dramatically alter a consumptive civilization. Especially in light of the developing world’s emergence and expectations of a planet-wide consumer culture.
Since the Second World War there have been a great many PSA (Public Service Announcements). Advertisers leap at the opportunity to be authors of them.
Classic campaigns from the Ad Council and one of mine for the Time Environmental Challenge.
One of The Guardian top 10 climate change campaigns.
Where to begin?
“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers this morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you might find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”
— Joseph Campbell
One thought on “Think small (again).”
A great reminder here on Earth Day– what do we want from life, more cars and clothes and Starbucks coffee, or more time to think of who we are and where we’re going. Hopefully it’s not too late for the seeds of our “sacred place” to really take root and finally bear the fruit that helps us make a change for the better. The Earth gives us so many opportunities to amend our evil ways, and yet it seems that our fate is still in the hands of fools.
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