By supporting the Global Climate Strike, the advertising industry showed that creativity can play a key role in driving the change we need.
On 20th September 2019, the Global Climate Strike took place in over 150 countries around the world. It was an incredible, historic day, as an estimated 4 million people took to the streets to send a single powerful message to world leaders: Act on climate change now, before it’s too late.
In support of the strike, the advertising industry launched a huge collective effort to demonstrate the power of creativity in helping to tackle climate breakdown. Called Create and Strike, the initiative is a coalition of 160 agencies that have all agreed “our industry has the power to enact positive change, and that it is our duty to use our creative talents and resources to help mitigate the climate and ecological crisis”.
As the organisers note, advertising agencies have played their own significant role in the crisis by creating the demand for products, services and lifestyles that have contributed to the destruction of our environment. The bold mission of Create and Strike is to redefine the industry’s role in the world in pursuit of a more sustainable future. It’s a mission that BJL was proud to sign up to alongside the likes of Iris, Lucky Generals, Ogilvy and many, many more.
So how did we put our creative talents to good use on the day of the strike? More importantly, how did we create work that amplified the climate action message to as wide an audience as possible?
Well, we made placards of course, infused with our trademark Northern wit (‘Eco Worrier’ and ‘It rains too much in Manchester anyway’ etc). But we also went a step further by setting up a ‘paint your own’ placard workshop in St Peter’s Square in the centre of Manchester.
The workshop proved to be a huge hit with people who had joined the climate strike, including families with young children who delighted in creating their own signs. All the placard-making necessaries were provided, from paper and paint to impactful stencils designed by our Senior Art Director Woody Woods and Design Lead Peter Blake.
Standing for something
Another crack team of BJL creatives – Ryan Griffiths and Katie Bradshaw – came up with a stunt for the square’s statue of Emmeline Pankhurst. They dressed the famous suffragette with a life jacket and rested a sign on her pointing arm to show the catastrophic level that rising sea levels could reach.
As an agency our rally cry is ‘Stand for something. Take on anything’ and we can think of few images that better represent this mantra than a figure like Emmeline Pankhurst proudly championing the climate action cause in the centre of our home city.
The image was shared far and wide by the likes of The Guardian and BBC as climate strikers stopped in their droves to take a photo of the stunt. It’s also one of two BJL activations to have been shortlisted for an exhibition of the most impactful work at Tate Modern.
Creating positive change
In other words, Create and Strike was a great way of getting our creative juices flowing. It’s clear that tackling climate change is the single biggest issue facing humankind today. It’s also clear from our experience during the Global Climate Strike that creativity has an essential role to play in driving the kind of change in perceptions and behaviour that we all need to see.
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist at the forefront of the climate movement, made a crucial point about the need for action – and the role of trust – during a speech a few days after the strike. Addressing the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit, she told world leaders: “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”
Thunberg is right to say that standing on the sidelines is no longer an option. The same is true for the creative industries, too.