Ad Council Takes On Global Warming

Some of the biggest ad agencies, whose clients include oil companies and car manufacturers, are joining with broadcasters and other donators of media time to fight global warming.

The Ad Council and Environmental Defense Thursday are launching a public-service campaign on global warming. The two plan to release a study indicating consumers are willing to change their habits--walk more, use more energy-efficient light bulbs--to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Council.

The campaign will also unveil a consumer guide, The Low Carbon Diet, including an online calculator--at to figure out how much carbon-based pollution carbon-based life forms are routinely causing.

The Council has long been on the front lines of the war on pollution, including the Crying Indian spots (Iron Eyes Cody, who left few dry eyes in his wake).

The Ad Council combines the creative talents of Madison Avenue with the donated airtime of various media to create public service announcements (PSAs) and campaigns (Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires, Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk).

Ad Council President Peggy Conlon said that the PSA's do not take a political approach to the global warming issue. "They are not about political advocacy, or policy or legislation," said Conlon. "It's about what people can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The campaign is from Ogilvy New York, the same creative team that created the BP alternate energy campaign that also talks about reducing carbon-based pollution.

The campaign pulls no punches. In one of the ads a man is seen standing on railroad tracks as a train hurtles toward him from behind.

"Global Warming. Some say irreversible consequences are 30 years away," he says, as the shot cuts back and forth between him and the train. "That won't affect me," he says, stepping off the track to reveal a little girl behind him, the train filling the frame behind her.

In another, a series of children simply say the word "tick," like a clock counting down, intercut with phrases like "devastating hurricanes, severe drought, massive heat waves."

Conlon says the spots, TV, radio and Internet, are intended to give Americans "an emotional connection with global warming. They are powerful, and they have to be to break through the clutter."

Conlon said that the council polled major national and local media outlets and said there was "tremendous enthusiasm" for the spots. She said she believed the majority would carry them.

The TV ads will go out this week, said Conlon, there will also be print and outdoor components.

The EPA is not participating in the campaign, and was not asked to.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.