Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables Campaign against food waste by Intermarché

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We throw 300 million tons of food each year. Much of this wasted food never reach the markets not our plates for the simple reason that their appearance is unconventional, unattractive and clearly do not meet the desirable standards for sale. The release of this news had encouraged the European Union to make 2014 the year against food waste.  It did not fall unto deaf ears. Intermarché, the third biggest grocery store in France, came up in early 2014 with an uncommon campaign that sought out to minimize food waste. The “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables”, or “Fruits et Légumes Moches” promotes the ‘ugly’ green produce that is too often thrown away by growers because it is considered unfit for consumption.

Intermarché proposed to help prevent food waste by proving its customers that “ugly” fruits and vegetable were simply as healthy-to-eat and delicious as their “beautiful” counterparts. This slick initiative was based on a serious message aimed at reducing food waste, which was designed in a manner that was likely to encourage customers to change their consumption habits at the moment of the campaign.

The campaign by Intermarché was produced by advertising agency Marcel and the photographer Patrice de Villiers. 7 posters were produced, each of them starring the unattractive produce to go alongside it. The posters displayed images of the “grotesque apple”, the “ridiculous potato”, the “hideous orange”, the “failed lemon”, the “disfigured eggplant”, the “ugly carrot”, and the “unfortunate clementine”. The success of this campaign can be attributed to the funny way in which images of greens have be personified. A particular attention has been paid to give characters to each fruit or vegetable on posters. In an interview, the photographer reported that ‘The most vital element was ensuring the “strange but lovable” theme shone through I spent time observing our uglies trying to find the precise angle which showed both their “ugliness” and their loveliness, finding their unique character.’

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The initiative was first conducted in only one Intermarché store in Provins, to test its efficiency. entire aisles in store were cleared to make room for the “inglorious fruits and vegetables”, and marketed the less-than-desirable product with special signage and labels. Intermarché put its efforts into the campaign’s visibility in the store itself, with additional animation proposed to customers at the entrance. orange juice and carrot soup were distributed in-store, and several packaged dishes ready-to-cook made from the produce were on sale. Last, but not least, Intermarché gave the produce a 30 per cent markdown.

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The campaign was an immediate success. Within 2 days, 1,2 tons of produce was sold at the store in Provins, and store traffic has increased by 24%. France is a fertile ground to launch such “changing consumers’ habits initiatives” because the government has since many years oriented his efforts towards raising awareness about the necessity to “eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day”. Intermarché clearly played on that field, since this slogan has been taken back in their “inglorious” headlines. Several other French food groceries have since joined the movements, with the “Quoi ma gueule?” (“So what about my look?”) label, that also sells “unattractive” products at discount prices. Leclerc French supermarket started to commercialise “soup kits”, with the right quantities of “unattractive vegetables” already packed for soups. However, the commercial-awareness campaign has reached far beyond France’s public, via social media. The video, displayed on Youtube and created by advertising company Marcel, records millions of views internationally with full success.

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It is very likely that the offer of discount prices for unattractive vegetables have provided an ultimate incentive to customers. People are probably as much concerned with saving the planet as with saving their own money. If this campaign is thus successful in preventing – at a small scale –  food waste at distribution step, it does not target waste at consumption. It even risks having the reverse effect of encouraging customers to acquire greater quantities because produce is marketed “on sale”.

Although interesting in itself, the initiative remains market-oriented and does not aim at being applied to all Intermarché stores, neither is it going to be extended in time. Intermarché admitted that the organisation obstacles with producers were too complicated. The company is more of a free-rider in the positive wave of awareness on the issue of food waste, since it managed to reach more customers and more revenue from produce saved from waste, but does not question the root causes of the system. It’s rather taking advantage of it, implicitly blaming other food grocery chains and food producers for contributing to food waste. It’s an opportunity for Intermarché to redefine its image after the scandal of deep-sea fishing denounced by GreenPeace in January 2014, which made bad publicity for the corporation’s concern with sustainable development issues.

Actually, initiatives to reduce food waste are ones that really enable to save money, for produced, distributors, and consumers alike. On one hand, the sale of products at apparent discount prices is probably the ultimate incentive that encouraged consumers to turn to the inglorious fruits and vegetables. On the other, the campaign’s strength has been not to make customers feel guilty, but rather proud for their contribution to prevent food waste. This commercial effort has the advantage of revealing that consumers tend to be receptive to the issue of food waste, but lack opportunities to consume differently. Providing alternative options of consumption is a big part of changing customers’ habits.

Water is food? Food is energy?

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Screenshot from  This post is not about an awareness campaign but on some infographics that aim at making alimentary diets’s environmental footprint more visible. An infographic is a visual explanation of complex information and data intended to make them more easily understandable, following a particular analytical approach, and often on the basis of cognitive elements.

The concept of “ecological footprint” was first coined by the Canadian researcher William Rees in 1992. It can be simply defined as the human impact on the environment. In this way, following his environmental consciousness, a normal individual in an industrialist society may adopt various behaviours so as to reduce his ecological footprint. Apart of transportation and energy issues, a daily choice for everybody is the one of food. Indeed, a particular diet may have consequences for your body, but also for the environment, following how the food was produced.

An Italian graphic artist, Angela Morelli, hence suggests that “you eat 3496 litres of water everyday” (as far as you is a meat-eater). She interestingly presents the implications of a daily meat diet in terms of water consumption. Indeed, if water for domestic consumption is visible, there would however be two invisible additional parts in our daily water consumption. First, the water used for industrial products, such as paper, cotton and clothes. Second, and by far the most important, the water to product the food we consume, which would amount to 3496 litres. “92% of the water we use is invisible and is hidden in our food!” Following this concept, referred to as “virtual water” by the British geographer Anthony Allan, it would take 15,400 litres to produce 1 kg of beefsteak – including water for the production of grains and roughages, the water for the animal to drink along its three years of industrial life, and the water for servicing the farmhouse and for slaughtering. To make this more visually striking, Angela Morelli has decided to represent this 15,400 litres of water hidden in a 1kg steak by a wall of as much (plastic) bottles – covering in the end 8 by 40 metres.

So to make the world more water secure, Angella Morelli suggests – if your are not already vegetarian (or vegan) by political conviction – to start with “one meat-free-day a week!”. Indeed, the average daily water consumption of a meat-eating person would amounts to 5,000 litres, twice the average of a vegetarian. Then, a meat eater should choose “meat raised on grass”, like sympathetic sheep, not “corn-fed beef” raised in the intensive agri-industry. Ultimately, you should not waste food because wasting food is also wasting water.

Of course, apart from a water footprint, our food choices – our rather our protein choices – have also a carbon footprint and an impact on climate change. The US-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) has published a meat eater’s guide online for people to assess the climate impact of their food choices. Indeed, the climate impacts of industrial meat production and consumption are multiple, in terms of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions and harm to the environment. From digestion-generated methane (a GHG 25 times more potent than CO2) and manure (air and water pollution by animal waste) to feed production (including fertilizers, fuel, pesticides and water used for cropland) and processing (farmhouses and slaughterhouses activities), as well as transportation (of animals, supplies and retail products) and conservation (in supermarkets and at home), the production channel of industrial meat reveals not quite environmentally-friendly. Here also, CleanMetrics (the partners of EWG) has designed an interesting infographic to represent the carbon footprint of various foods compared with the distance made with a car.

This idea of ecological footprint can be related the one of entropy. Indeed, in his 2011-book, The Third Industrial Revolution (Palgrave Macmillan), Jeremy Rifkin (pp.198-203) draws a parallel between the concept of entropy (the thermodynamic transformation process by which energy is lost in the process of energy production itself) and the food chain in a complex and industrial civilisation. Describing the “energy that goes into a beefsteak” into eleven steps, he shows that the conversion process is ridiculous compared to the “expenditure of energy to grow the feed, fatten the animal, package the cuts, and send them to their final destination on the family table”, to ultimately be digested by the body and returned to the environment as waste.

So on one hand there is the energy consumption induced by the industrial processes, and on the other there is the simple “entropy bill”. The latest would account for about 18% of GHG emissions generated by cattle and livestock in general, because of nitrous oxide and methane emissions (which the global warming effect is way more important than carbon dioxide). It would be the second leading source of climate change, behind buildings and before worldwide transportation.

Jeremy Rifkin, to clarify a “fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of wealth” and to provide a larger intellectual opening, proposes to analyse GDP – generally associated with the measure of the wealth generated by a country – from a thermodynamic point of view: GDP would become a “measure of the temporary energy value embedded in the goods or services and an accumulation of entropic waste”, or a gross domestic cost. If we analyse the economic progress as an “entropy stream”, then economic growth become impossible, “since every time resources are consumed, a portion becomes unavailable for future use”.

The value of a good, and particularly food, is temporary, but its cost for environment is ever-long lasting. To conclude, we may say that infographics may simplify too much the implications of one’s food choice, even if they make it well visible. Indeed, if water is food, are we also eating carbon emissions? According to most media, and even the UN, on a long term basis, we should in fact better prepare for eating insects.

Carbon Story’s “World Under Water” interactive campaign

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The campaign:

World Under Water is an online campaign prepared for Carbon Story, a crowdfunding website dedicated to environmental projects; it has been up and running since May 2014 and was set up in the context of the UNEP World Environment Day 2014 (06/05/2014), directly echoing its motto: “Raise your voice, not the sea level !”.

The video displayed above is an introduction to the campaign, however it is highly recommended that you check out the actual website by yourself.

Indeed, it is all about participative visualization as the user has a chance to explore various global cities and world heritage landmarks as if the seas would have arisen up to their worst 2100 predicted level. Furthermore, on toolbar allows the user to go to any address of his/her choice to observe the impact of climate change on known neighborhood.

The user has then the possibility to “take action”, that is: he or she is redirected towards Carbon Story’s very own website.

The story behind:

Carbon Story is a young joint venture (started late 2012) by three tech-savvy, PhD holders teaching about environmental issues in South-East Asia; even today it remains a business operated at a modest intensity and mostly by volunteers. Carbon Story’s rationale for action is simple: it allows you to calculate your own carbon footprint and then it offers to crowdfund projects allowing you to offset this footprint for a given period of time.

In short, they have the best intentions and a business model that is not a predatory one – to say the least. This is maybe why they called in the Big Guns to help them gaining visibility. Indeed, they used their local network to reach out Proximity in Singapore, which in turn rang the New York and San Francisco teams of BBDO (both agencies are property of Omnicom, the second largest communication group behind WPP). In the end, what started as a geeky way of doing things took the shape of a massively legible, global campaign.

Indeed BBDO put a great effort into it and was able to use Google’s data of StreetView mapping, thus attracting a John Doe-like crowd who just wanted to see “how it is” rather than only people interested in the UNEP World Environment Day.

Did it work?

Yes it did! The campaign initiated by a small crowdfunding platform in Singapore ended up having a global outreach (it is featured on this blog after all) and was awarded during prestigious tech events such as the SXSW. It was a win-win for all parties involved, Carbon Story raising its profile, Omnicom showcasing its skills and the World Environment Day, needing, as many UN campaigns, to gain some visibility..

But is it a good tool to visualize climate change?

Here a more nuanced opinion is allowed; the result counts as well as the processes. Benefits for all parties have been acknowledged it brings some food for thought to the table; a technical component resonating with both new, easily accessible, technologies (StreetView) are well a global potential outreach (many locations, easily shareable on social networks) are assets to spread the word on climate and should credited to World Under Water.

However, and trying to avoid the usual blame game where “corporate interests are always beating the common good”, there are issues with this campaign.

Living outside of North America and South-East, just try to type in your address: you may end up with a black screen, as your address has not been mapped. This reveals the major flaw of the campaign: it could have combined the good (and true) will of Carbon Story with a powerful pedagogical tool. It could have pushed the “one event-one shot” campaign logic beyond the brinks and established a reference website for individual experience-based attempts at raising awareness on climate change.

But in the end, this is a just website that is going to be lost in depth of the internet after a while, and I have the intuition that the folks at Carbon Story partly regret it.

Up to anyone with the skills and the interest to bolster the website with more precise data and to make it a reliable tool to understand the rise of sea levels.

Rainforest Alliance Campaign “Follow the Frog”

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“Follow the Frog” is part of the 10-months Rainforest Alliance Campaign “compelling editorial content, contests and a dynamic social media campaign to call attention to some of the world’s greatest challenges”; it aims to raise awareness on ecological challenges, such as deforestation, climate change, poverty, water quality and fare-trade.

The campaign: it is framed within the branded content marketing strategy. This strategy is an entertainment-based mean to give the brand an opportunity to communicate its image and/or program to its target audience in an original way, by creating positive links between the product and the program. By doing so, Rainforest Alliance made the relation between following –and buying- the frog products and “saving the planet”.


The objectives: the Follow the Frog campaign aims to connect people from all around the world to “build a better tomorrow through their everyday actions”. This means promoting sustainable farming, urban farming, recycling, community forest management, etc., through the choosing and acquisition of certified- sustainable-fare-trade-ethically produced goods sold by the partner companies of the Rainforest Alliance.


The ad: the 3 min commercial tries to connect with people’s daily lives. You are a good person, you do things “right”, you have a family, you have a job, and you try to be an ecologically responsible person by separating trash and driving an electric car. However, one day you realize that despite your efforts, outside your middle-class world, forests and wildlife are being destroyed. Rainforest Alliance tells you that you are not going to leave your comfortable life to change the world, but you can add to your current efforts and buy their products to make the world better. As we said, the campaign tries to connect with the American middle class type. The guy in the video is a young professional who tries to do his best to stay green, however, he could do even better by “following the frog” (without scarifying his family, job, lifestyle).

Although the idea is good in the sense that if we follow the frog we would at least “do something”, the final message is about not really changing our habits or behaviors. The story of the ad is a story of prejudice (for instance, against the “un-civilized” indigenous peoples of the South); of comfortability (why should I quit my lifestyle if nothing is gonna change in the end?); and of unawareness (of the more macroeconomic reasons that lead to indiscriminate forestry, global warming, unfair trade, etc.: consumerism).

Is “Follow the Frog” really visibilizing the invisible, or is it just keeping the invisible just as it is? I would say it is only fooling us by making us think, with a super entertaining and funny ad, that consuming is the way to fight social injustice and tackle ecological challenges. Instead -even if it’s more difficult- we could start by changing our behaviors towards consumption; by being more austere and alternative in the ways we eat, move, live and buy.

When Sea Levels Attack ! How long have we got ?

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This info graphic is the work of London-based author, writer and designer David  McCandless and his team. David McCandless’ work focuses on representing data in the most beautiful and readable way in order for the general public to understand complex issues at a glance. As it happens, his project –Information is Beautiful, accessible at has a couple of climate change-related creations which totally fit what we are interested in on this website: making the invisible visible and the complexity of climate change issues understandable. Of all his climate change-related work my personal preference goes for the above info graphic.

It should be pretty clear to the reader by now that this info graphic is about sea-level rising; in case the marine blue does not constitute a sufficient indication, the author has been kind enough as to add a small evocative boat on the upper-left side to make sure no-one is completely at sea. The gradation of  the blue is, I believe, remarkably well thought: it goes from deep blue to clear blue sky, as if the sea could just rise so much that it would fill up the entire universe and reach the sky. In black color, the author has put fourteen cities that should feel threatened by sea-rising; on the left, the most at risk is expectedly Venice. On the far right we find New York, London and Taipei, which are at risk if we’re optimistic enough to think we’ll still be here in a thousand years time. The point of the picture is to make tangible what is otherwise hard to imagine: the risk that these big coastal cities we all know about, face is very much real and maybe we should start worrying about it. McCandless is trying to show that we can be touched by climate change personally and that we’re all on the same boat (to keep up with bad plays on words). The Jaws-like title (‘When Sea Levels Attack! How long have we got?’) adds to the general feeling of urgency we feel when looking at this alarming info graphic.

I did feel something that relate to urgency when I first looked at the info graphic; yet a closer look caused my eyebrows to raise.

It is hard to get around the fact that two ugly white stripes slash the blue sea background, and it took me a while before realizing what actual information it was meant to convey. Each of them represents a gap of several meters, twelve for the first stripe, sixty for the second one (a fairly big difference and yet stripes are identical in size). These strips also represent a jump in time of about 500 and 7000 years respectively.  In my opinion, it greatly weakens the message of the info graphic, and it feels like it actually misses its target. Sea levels rising is certainly a long-term problem, but there is no need to look so far into the future to find alarming examples of threatened places: The Maldives are deemed inhabitable by 2100 if nothing is done to prevent climate change; the sea is also likely to swallow part of Nigeria’s coastal cities way before it starts to even timidly lick London’s feet; the info graphic leaves no place for Pacific coasts despite their very high vulnerability.

In fact, McCandless’s conscious focus on major global cities is done at the expense of less-known places which would benefit from greater political attention. Apart from Shanghai and Taipei, the cities presented here are only Western cities. It may be argued that this was done in order to retain the reader’s maximum attention and make him feel that he is also likely to be affected by sea level rising, but if that was the case then why would McCandless even bother including Shanghai and Taipei? It seems to me that choices of cities were based on their TripAdvisor ranking rather than their vulnerability.

It is interesting to note that London manages to appear twice in the info graphic: once because of South London, which is likely to be submerged within 300-400 years, and the second time once it gets completely submerged, that is in a millennium. This distinction has certainly been made in order to show that London is at risk in the medium-term; but yet again it appears arbitrary to me.

Since looking at the effects of sea rising over a time-lapse of 8,000 years masks the immediacy of the problem, maybe another way to do it would be to reduce the time-lapse considered –say, 400 years, while including more non-Western cities. One could argue that the three small maps on the right (showing how continents’ surface dwindle) would lose their purpose if we are looking at such a short period of time. That is certainly true, yet whether those maps are actually necessary and contribute efficiently to the general message is an open question.

That said, this info graphic remains a beautiful tool to raise awareness about the effects of global warming. It is one of the few info graphics I’ve seen that succeed in communicating the importance of global warming efficiently without giving up on clarity and aesthetics. I have good hope that the growing and thriving online community of graphic designers will follow that trend; numerous incredible creations are appearing everyday on the web, some of which I’ve listed below for the pleasure of the eyes.

Stanford Kay’s  Work on Carbon Footprint.

Shrink That Footprint on the causes of GHG emissions.

Cameron Tulk on Fossil Fuels.



The campaign SAVE POWER- WHAT CAN YOU DO IN YOUR WORLD? is an australian initiative from the New South Wales (NSW) State Government launched in May 2009 and set up for almost two years as a response to the community’s request for more information about electricity impacts in the environment and ways to reduce them and save money in bills.

The objective of this campaign was to show households, public facilities and businesses different actions they could take in order to reduce carbon pollution and save money during peak electricity use periods (winter and summer).

This campaign was part of a larger program for community awareness, which include communications, community education, training and research under the framework of the different Energy Efficiency Strategy programs of NSW Government.

According to the Strategic Communications Site of NSW Government, this initiative was addressed to the 5.6 million over 18 years old in NSW, in order to offset the trend of increasing electricity consumption. The idea was to raise awareness about carbon pollution that comes from the coal-fired power stations (source of 90% of the NSW’s electricity). They tried to cover all the NSW community; apparently the campaign didn’t follow a “segmentation approach” targeting a specific audience with a defined message. They tried to raise awareness on a grand scale, which is often ineffective in terms of social marketing but it could create social capital in the community, as they put emphasis on the collective problem instead of on the differences between people. Even though the campaign’s education and training features were more specific targeted programs.

The general idea of this campaign was taken from the Victorian Government campaign created by George Patterson Y&R. The idea is simple “black ballons” being filled by greenhouse gas coming out of the electronic devices at home. Using the “black ballon” as a device to represent 50 grams carbon pollution, they gave a tangible mesure and make people visualize an apparently invisible problem, this creates and strong visual appeal and generates different emotional triggers. First because it’s happening in your home, what makes a connection to your everyday life and creates a sense of responsability. Second, because they are black and they are increasing what can trigger fear and at the same time a sense of urgency.

The call for action is relatively effective, many actions are simple and incite people to act without a negative spillover because the campaign was part of a comprehensive program that used different tools such as education and training to make people understand that their little actions are important for the community, for the future generations and for the world. They took into account the financial incentive that could work for some part of the population but they didn’t focus on it. They focused in the social norms and values, which are important components for sustainable development and long-term results.

The Victorian campaign was adapted based on research about its effectiviness, the main changes were the following terms: ‘Carbon pollution’ instead of ‘greenhouse gas’, ‘environment’ instead of ‘climate change’ and ‘power’ instead of ‘energy’. An interesting feature of NWS campaign was that the main idea behind was to create an “integrated program aimed to change knowledge, attitudes and behavior, and influence social norms through a range of tools”. They tried to focus in “the ‘rules’ a group uses to determine appropriate/inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, which is powerful because regulate acceptance and popularity in group.” This approach let us think that they were trying to overcome the limitations of social marketing creating a value-based campaign with a deep framing that really engage public in climate change.

The campaign used different channels of information such as TV, digital, outdoor, radio and print. The campaign website included an interactive feature that allow people to measure and commit with actions to reduce the number of balloons they produce.

Campaign Website

Campaign Website

According to the Strategic Communications Site of NSW Government, the media research techniques applied by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW to know the impacts and evaluate the awareness raised by this campaign were positive. There were high targeted audience rating points, 81% of public supported the campaign, 72% of those who saw the campaign on TV recalled at least one specific tip to save energy and awareness of installing energy saving systems such as solar panels and hot water systems doubled during the campaign period.

Specific Tip in Campaign Print

Specific Tip in Campaign Print

This campaign was broader than its Victorian predecessor; it took the most important feature, a “black balloon” as a tangible device, but was perfected in a more comprehensive strategy. The NSW Government SAVE POWER campaign intended to engage people in behaviors beyond energy efficiency appliances, target specific programs, support participation in other Energy Efficiency Strategy activities, build synergies with existing programs and build capacity through support and training. The success to make visible the invisible in this campaign probably inspired new efforts such as the “New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions” film (A Carbon Visuals film for Environmental Defense Fund) (


SAVE POWER- WHAT CAN YOU DO IN YOUR WORLD? Successfully integrated the strengths of the Victoria Government’s Black Balloons Awareness Campaign in a more comprehensive and broader program that overcome many of the limitations of social marketing for engaging the public in climate change. The outcomes of this campaign were measurable through the campaign website and the media research tools and more important, they were focused not only in simple low-impact individual behaviors but also in a broader social context. This campaign was a good initiative to make people understand their impact in a global problem; it still used the economic incentive, which can be negative in the long-term, but it took it only as another benefit from a larger objective.

People’s march for climate campaign


The people’s march for climate is a large-scale campaign for a worldwide demonstration on September the 21th. The aim of the event is to mobilize large amounts of people to show people’s concern for climate change and put pressure on politicians before the COP21.

The communication strategy was based on the project of achieving “the largest mobilization the world has ever seen on climate change” (Avaaz website). How to mobilize people on a very large scale about climate change issues appeared as the main challenge.

The result was a very consensual, but extremely vague punch line. Avaaz, which is an online platform aiming at mobilizing world citizens about climate change and human rights issues, launched a large campaign on the theme of saving the planet, with the slogan : “To change everything, it takes everyone – Let’s get started !”.

The posters for advertising the event were designed along the same communication strategy. One of the most visible posters (Poster 1) shows two characters looking at the sky with big shining eyes. The people here are pictured as central; the characters’ faces occupy most of the space. The poster clearly aim at presenting characters anyone can relate to. The visibility of the posters in large-formats in subway stations contributes to the large-public strategy. The reference to climate change issues is rather discrete. The green hearts stand for the People’s March logo. Further, one could regret the lack of cleavage and the absence of precise political message. Everyone can be anyone – it can also be nobody in particular.

150_JamesJeanPoster 1

The second poster analyzed (Poster 2), put up in New York City as well as the first one, displays a more radical message. A drawing of the Statue of Liberty shrinking is accompanied by the Avaaz’s slogan and the title: “March to save the world”. Here, the message is more directly related to climate change and more “catastrophist”. Every single New Yorker is expected to see himself/herself in the shrinking Statue of Liberty, the most symbolic New York statue. At the same time, the idea of mobilizing to “save the world” broadens even more the scope of the possible target “causes”.

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The diversity of communication campaigns through different posters displaying various messages about climate change mobilization reflects the desire to attract the largest possible number of people to the march. The underlying assumption here is not that people mobilize in order to save the world. People mobilize for very specific claims: LGBT rights, protection of the Amazonian forest, protests against meet consumption, etc. In this respect, the People’s Climate March Campaign was successful, as demonstrations in cities over the world gathered groups of various identities and claims. It managed to advertize anti-climate change activism as a popular cause which was not restricted to unknown and invisible ecologist activists. In this sense, the campaign rendered visible the popular and consensual character or climate change issues. However, a highly general and consensual message resulted in confused reactions and lacks of clarity as regard the common message that was displayed. It could be argued that visibility in this case was gained at the cost of clarity.

Act on CO2 campaign – Carbon Footprint

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This advertisement is part of the British government’s campaign about the reduction of CO2 emissions. The purpose of this article is to analyze it, notably through the concepts of Adam Corner and Alex Randall (“Selling climate change? The limitations of social marketing as a strategy for climate change public engagement”, Global Environmental Change, 2010). They approached this campaign in terms of communication strategy through the concept of social marketing and its shortcomings.

This video displays a particular narrative. It shows scenes of people’s everyday life. As they walk, they leave black marks on the floor looking like slimy disgusting crude oil. The foot-shaped print is a simple but efficient visual way to represent the carbon foot print which corresponds to the amount of greenhouse gas that is rejected in the atmosphere. Given the fact that, generally, people don’t have much time and attention to devote to the campaign because of daily information overload, the use of this striking visual element is quite efficient.

Carbon Footprint Caption

The scenes which could be very varied actually, mostly depict domestic situations. The one message is that every daily action, despite looking insignificant, affects the environment like the use of electric devices at home or the use of private car (with the synchronized echo of the song’s lyrics “polish your car” in the background).

This advertisement passes this message through the trigger of a soothing emotion due to the smooth music (The Kinks “Shangri La”), video editing and staging. However, it provokes also fear to some extent as the slimy footprint is always here. It appears as an important disturbing element in our secure environment.

Carbon Footprint Caption 2

The purpose of the environmental message –especially coming from a public institution- is universal. However, there is clear evidence here that the message is tailored towards specific viewers. The UK government seems to be willing to address the message to all types of audiences but it does not quite so in practice. Diverse age groups are present, but not the elderly. Diverse ethnic origins are present, but not many of them. Also, the video is very much centered on an already developed country and the middle and upper classes of the population. It looks like people who have time, money and who are more likely to have enhanced environmental consciousness are in the center. It is in direct contradiction with what should be the message for a universal cause. Moreover, consumers are the sole subject of attention here while they are not necessarily the only ones who are responsible for climate change. In opposition, attention could be turned towards the producers and the state. This shift of the responsibility and the blame game are interesting to observe.

More communication phenomena here are worthy to analyze. The only intervention in the advertisement comes at the end with the child who says: “You have a carbon foot print which contributes to climate change. To discover yours and know how to reduce it, visit”. It is so brief that this advertisement is not the informative kind despite making climate change visible. The use of a child’s voice is not a coincidence. Children represent innocence and purity. They also correspond to the future generation of human beings on Earth. I analyze this as a way to trigger a sense of guiltiness because the consumption of today is poisoning the existence of tomorrow’s beings. Nobody would want to harm children. The efficiency of this strategy is limited to my mind because too many communication campaign play on making people guilty, so the latter can become tired of such repetitiveness.

The use of the second person “you” in the short intervention is used to increase the sense of responsibility among the audience and to create familiarity. The purpose is universal as we said, but when we examine the fact that people tend to believe in self-enhancement values, this use of the “you” makes sense. The personalization can be therefore seen as an efficient tool. But, in practice, the lack of empirical evidence of the spill-over effect of individual behavioral change on wider groups is an element to mitigate the effect of this communication campaign (as Adam Corner and Alex Randall pointed out). In this sense, the video also promotes to some extent the concept of moral licensing. This concept illustrates the belief that one person’s small action for the environment makes him feel comfortable enough not to take other actions. This video indeed makes you believe that just a click on a link to a website will be a big step to change this person’s environmental impact. This effect appears as being counter-productive to the goal of the campaign.

Oriane Lemaire

Nexus – Back to the Start


The video « Back to the Start » was created in 2011 to promote the « Chipotle Cultivate Foundation », an initiative launched by the Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle, dedicated to supporting family farming, sustainable agriculture and culinary education in the United States. It was realized by Nexus, a London-based film and interactive media company, and features an interpretation of Coldplay’s song « The Scientist » by the American singer Willie Nelson. 

« Back to the Start » is organized in two parts. The first part of the clip displays the progressive path towards the industrialization of meat production, with explicit signs of the ills brought about by the excessive commodification of farmed animals. The viewer powerlessly witnesses the creation of the whole « factory farming » production chain, as grain silos, factories and highways unfold on the background. All the while, the pigs, at first free and happily gamboling on fields of green grass, are progressively captured into a seemingly unstoppable and implacable mechanical movement, by which they end up processed and sent to trucks for distribution. As nature gets tamed and the urban civilization expands, all life fades away, with bright colors slowly turning to asphalt grey.

The second part of the video starts with a farmer walking on the outside; it’s cold and snowy. He realizes how industrial farming – the antibiotics pills, the jam-packed sheds, and the polluted environment that comes with it – have perverted all that stands around him. So, he decides to « go back to the start » (as providentially announced by Willie Nelson at 1:29) and he breaks down the barriers that used to stand between him and the animals – and by extent, between him and nature. A new, virtuous cycle of production begins, and the video ends up – no big surprise – on an spotless white chipotle minivan embarking the fruits of the new farmer’s heaven.

An interesting element of this campaign is that it directly calls the viewer’s attention on the environmental impact of factory farming, less discussed and present to mind than the overwhelming moral question of animal cruelty and dehumanization. It is known that factory farming makes a 30% higher contribution to the emission of greenhouse gases than transportation globally; factory farming is also a major source of land, water and air pollution. The aftermath of industrial production on the environment is clearly depicted in the video when, for instance, we see the pollution smokes created by factories, or the toxic industrial waste being rejected into and subsequently contaminating clear waterways. On the other hand, family farming is associated with the traditional imagery of sustainability, when we for instance see wind turbines popping up on the distant hills (1:40). The video works on visual codification opposing green to grey, thereby separating what is sustainable from what is not, and simultaneously inscribing family farming into a a set of practices that are known to be respectful of the environment.

What makes this video great is both its graphic performance and originality – the video was realized using traditional stop frame model animation techniques – and the Coldplay song interpreted by singer Willie Nelson, known for his engagement along family farming and to sustainable modes of meat production. The participation of Willie Nelson brings leadership to the campaign, as well as a sense a broader connectedness to traditional american values that I believe the artist embodies quite well. What makes « Back to the Start » so compelling is that, while appealing to virtually everyone – except maybe for a few anti-corporate cynics, the video also calls back to the deeper American narrative of pioneering, of going back to a state of justice and respect towards nature that may once have animated the first settlers on the New Continent. Hence, the powerful, emotional narrative at play behind this video is not only that of cruel animal treatment, or jeopardized ecology: it is also that of a threatened sense of identity. 

Robin Crozier

Tck tck tck campaign

Student Work

The Tck Tck Tck campaign clip presents a cover of “Beds are burning” from Midnight Oil, an Australian band who wrote this song to raise awareness on climate change, realized by numerous celebrities.

The spectator is invited to listen to a well-known song from which some lyrics are highlighted in the clip and watch which celebrities engaged in the campaign. The campaign starts with a clock ticking (the “Tck tck tck” sound that gives its name to the campaign) which numbers are replaced with negative environmental symbols (a factory or an oxygen mask for instance) and a message from Kofi Annan who announces the need for citizens to signal climate change as a major issue during the 2009 Copenhagen summit and “make the planet a better place”. The song then begins with shots of celebrities singing on street posters crossed out by outlined lyrics such as “how can we dance”. The clip ends with a composition of celebrities’ pictures forming a world map, including a message from Desmond Tutu announcing that he supports this campaign, and a link embedded in the video to download the song for free and become a “climate ally”, as is demanded in the clip.

The presence of two political and moral guarantors of the campaign (both winners of the Nobel Peace Prize) at the opening and the closing of the video gives legitimacy to the message of the campaign. The participation of celebrities to the clip and song can awake curiosity for the viewers and give it more audience by generating a buzz. Finally, the cover of a well-known song ensures the campaign catches attention, vehicles a catchy message through the lyrics and sticks as a song to the viewer’s mind. This campaign is targeted to anyone who paid attention to the Copenhagen summit and believes climate change is a major issue to invite them to take a stand for political leaders, from adults who already know the song to a younger audience that might be more appealed by the celebrity component.

Beds are burning 2This campaign counts more than one million views on Youtube, which is a good channel of broadcasting: first, the clip is interactive and the viewer can click on the link embedded in the video and directly engage in the campaign. Then, it can be easily shared and diffused through social media that way, even more with the celebrities’ endorsement. Although the clip features a street-like design, it is clearly aimed at being interactive to catch people’s attention, so it is only partially integrated. It is also conceived to go from online media to TV or radio diffusion as it lasts a bit long for a TV spot (4:03min).

The campaign uses a song to convey different emotions. First, it can provoke enthusiasm because of the melody and the pleasure of singing. It also translates indignation through the lyrics which contain sentences such as “how can we…” to denounce inaction on climate change. But most importantly, it creates a sense of leadership personified by Kofi Annan and the celebrities because the message framing the music video is to invite spectators to feel concerned and take action. Indeed, the interesting feature of this campaign is that it gives to the viewer a mean of action, to be a “climate ally” and join those standing up to fight climate change and political inaction. It features both an explicit message and a link to take action before the video clip even ends.

Using an entertaining frame to convey a serious message is a creative and effective way to give it attention, especially when it has to stand out from the numerous information people are exposed to each day. It is even more distinctive with its popular culture references through a climate-change well-known song and various celebrities and peace leaders, as well as its given mean of action. This differs from many climate change campaigns playing on guilt and fear. However, this campaign was conducted during a summit that ended up being a mediatised failure, diminishing the impact these “climate allies” could have had. Furthermore, the use of celebrities embracing a cause is a double-edged marketing tool as it can also backfire: the use of celebrities can disservice a cause by making it loose its credibility (ex: “who are they to tell us what to do”) or diminish their sympathy for and sense of belonging with the cause (ex: “it’s for rich people only”). These two negative consequences are important to take into account as they illustrate two of the major flaws of climate change campaigns aimed at a large audience: giving a lesson and using a top-down approach.