Why ad agencies need to up their game on the climate crisis

Well-intentioned ads featuring scenes of disaster are not enough to change people’s minds. The industry needs to do a better job on climate change, says Ben Kay

At last year’s Cop26 UN Climate Conference, David Attenborough said “tackling climate change is now as much a political and communications challenge as it is a scientific or technological one. We have the skills to address it in time, all we need is the global will to do so.”

It is indeed a communications challenge, in which case this is surely a job for the planet’s most persuasive professional communicators: the advertising industry. The only problem is that we seem to address the needs of climate crisis persuasion with an unerring degree of well-intentioned incompetence.

Having started an ethical agency and an advertising/climate initiative, I’ve kept a very close eye on the way in which we try to tackle this most complex of problems, but 99% of the time I see us creating messaging that falls well short of being able to alter the status quo.