A Greenpeace France activist and former winner and jury of the world famous Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, interrupted the opening ceremony last night to call out advertising agencies gathered in the event for working with the fossil fuel industry and being complicit in spreading disinformation around the climate catastrophe and promoting their polluting products. The peaceful protest comes as 40 organisations are pushing a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) petition, calling for a new law that bans fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship in the EU.
On the first night of the event that gathers over 15,000 people each year since 1954, Greenpeace activist and former Cannes Lions winner for his work with cars and airlines, Gustav Martner, took the stage and unfolded a banner that read “No awards on a dead planet, Ban Fossil Ads!”. He said:
“As a former head of a creative agency, I know the power of advertising and sponsorship in mobilizing people or distracting them from crucial issues. My job was to use my ideas to help polluters sell products that are killing the planet and the people. For too long, ad agencies have escaped their responsibilities towards the climate crisis, now they must cut ties with the fossil fuel industry. Cannes Lions claims to be the ‘Home of creativity’, I’m here to say there’s no creativity on a dead planet”.
Since the Paris Agreement at least 300 awards have been given out in Cannes to advertising for more air travel, to oil companies that greenwash and to ads that make cars with polluting combustion engines more desirable. PR and Advertising holdings and agencies such as Accenture, Publicis, WPP and Edelman, present in this event, have recently announced they will commit to achieving ‘carbon neutrality’ (net zero) and internal sustainability policies. However, all these firms continue to work for the fossil fuel industry helping them promote their image and the alleged environmental virtues of oil and fossil gas and, as a result, block the rapid climate action required.
“Just like tobacco companies, the fossil fuel industry makes profit on the back of people’s suffering. With it, they buy unique access to media via advertisements that shape narratives to keep us hooked on oil. But even in the face of appalling environmental consequences, wars and neo-colonialism, advertising agencies choose to keep colluding with climate criminals. As a result, the whole advertising industry is tinged with environmental crimes that can be stopped with bold action, like a ban of fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship in the EU”, said Silvia Pastorelli, EU climate and energy campaigner and lead organiser of the ECI.
For the first time this year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report exposed the role of PR and advertising in fuelling the climate crisis, while hundreds of scientists signed a letter calling on public relations and advertising agencies to stop working with fossil fuel companies and spreading climate disinformation.