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Red, Amber, Green

Going green can be sexy and fun.With all the current floods – July 07 has been the wettest year to date and by contrast, July 06 was the hottest on record – people are starting to wake up to the fact that all this talk of environmental disaster may be true.

Whereas Al ‘the bore’ Gore (as some cynics call him) got us all talking about the inconvenient truth of environmentalism over our gin and tonics, they say that experience is far more effective a persuader than talk alone. Well that certainly seems to be the case. I’m sure event and field marketers will be chuffed.

This has led to a massive panic to go green. Immediate action or the planet gets it. The fact that current environmental issues are anything but just current seems to have missed some people but makes for good media headlines. It was over a decade ago that we had the hole in the Ozone Layer panic. Credit where credit’s due, politicians actually managed to act and ban most CFCs. The only downside was that hairspray sales went down, while hair gel went up and spiky hair made a come back.

Some groups are running around like headless chickens, the danger of which is to create green fatigue. Or worse still, to have politicians creating new laws and regulations to grab media column inches. Every politician needs to be ‘seen to be green’. Like boy racers at the traffic lights, their foot is flat down on the change accelerator, when they should actually be trying some gentle eco breaking instead.

But then the smart people don’t go into politics; they have other ways to influence society. ‘Change the World for a Fiver’ and ‘Change the World 9-5’ (by the group We are what we do – www.wearewhatwedo.org) takes a more realistic approach. If we all make a series of changes – just a few small steps – we will end up making one big leap. A similar approach has been adopted by a new website I’ve came across recently called The Nag (www.thenag.net). Each month you commit yourself to one small act. That’s just 12 a year. It’s almost perfect for those armchair ecos who really want conscience with convenience.

Where so many eco sites can be a bit too worthy, banging the drum of guilt and demanding we should all be ‘consumers of conscience’, The Nag takes a lighter look at ethics. They even offer a ‘crap prize draw’ competition. This is ethics with fun, which is how it should be. After all, we in advertising all know that Ogilvy was very wrong when he said; “no one buys from a clown.” Sorry David but humour wins hearts and minds and sales every time. Why? Because it engages you and gets under the radar. The first thing we do when we meet people is use a smile and humour. So if it works there, why not for ethics?

Another site I like is Tree Huggers (www.treehugger.com) who have a friendly magazine like approach: intelligent, witty and very factual without eco emotionalism. But hidden in the site is the oddest section I’ve come across on any green site – how to green your sex life. Here you can learn the process of greening your ecological footprint in the bedroom and a guide to buying greener sex toys. As I’ve said, fun sells but so does sex.

Tim Smit, founder and Chief Executive of the Eden Project, believes future leaders should be “big, bold, dangerous, compelling, sexy, aggressive and rock and roll”.

So green is fun, green is sexy, green is the new rock ‘n’ roll. So what are you waiting for?

Are ads polluting our cities?

SAO PAULO – AN AD FREE CITY – IS THIS THE FUTURE?

Sao Paulo in Brazil has taken down all its outdoor poster ads, neon signs, ads at bus stops, flyers, hand lettered signs and ads on transport. People there felt that the city had become polluted by “worthless advertising” and had turned the city into one giant billboard. Since they have removed all ads the public have said the city has been “cleaned” and reclaimed from the hands of commercial brands. Everyone agrees it looks much better. Not surprisingly the Brazilian ad community and many large brands are unhappy. Though some more creative ad agencies are seeing it as an opportunity to be more innovative.

Could this be the future for other cities? Will Times Square and Piccadilly Circus be next? Westminster council are no fans of advertising and have been trying to reduce ad sites in their borough for years.

Do you remember when red buses and black cabs had no ads on?

Or when posters were actually good to look at? Most of them are now just bad.

I believe brands need to take responsibility for the use of media sites. To subject the public to junk ads is anti-social. And it doesn’t sell, that’s the lunacy of it all. Why would you be engaged by a badly written and designed poster that just shouts at you “buy, buy, buy.” We are all prepared to pay for great art, great creativity that engages us creates desire. But the only one who is prepare to pay for ads are the brands.

The expansion of advertising media sites- almost nothing is safe – sandwich bags, benches, lamp posts, floors, even our skies – means it works less. Too much visual noise means the public sees less. As someone who works in the creative end of the London ad industry, this I know is true.

At the turn of the 20th century the tube network suffered a similar problem. There were so many ads people complained they couldn’t read the station names. It took a very smart man, Frank Pick, to solve it. He took all the ads down and replaced them with just a few. Those ad spaces became far more valuable and generated more income. The Underground started using the sites themselves to encourage Londoners to visit numerous attractions and places. Pick commissioned many young upper coming artists, many who represented new artistic styles of time, like McKnight Kauffer and Graham Sutherland. Within a few years the Underground had gone from being a visual cacophony of ugly ads to an art gallery. It was said that Londoners had become the most art educated in the world.

Out of a problem had come a solution that benefited both the advertisers and society. Maybe we are at that time again. Maybe the new Frank Pick could be Ken Livingstone.

POSTERS FOR PEOPLE AND THE PLANET NOT PROFIT. I would like all advertisers to put up a beautiful image on their billboards in London during January 2008. No cars, cheesy housewives, food or mobile phones, but pictures of clean places, trees, flowers, blue skies – use your imagination – and lets see how that transforms our grey city. I think the public would appreciate brands more who show respect for our environment than ones that pollute them.