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An open letter to the advertising industry

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

greenwashing: no comment.Dear Advertisers,

When he spoke at your annual international conference in Cannes a year ago, Al Gore asked you to use your powers for good instead of evil. By emphasizing the environment, he said, advertisers could put pressure on consumers and businesses to make better choices and slow the tide of global warming.

I've got another request for you now: Give us a break already!

We're tired, guys. Really, just exhausted from the sheer weight of all the "green" that's been heaped on us in the last 18 months. I'm pretty sure ol' Al didn't mean that you should use that handy environmental message to market everything from Sun Chips to Dow Chemical. (Seriously? "The Human Element" my left foot.)

Look, it's not that we fault you for doing your job. We understand: for 18 months, the environment was hot. In fact, it was downright sexy, and in that time "green" became the new sex appeal -- nearly ubiquitous in advertising, even when completely irrelevant to the product in question. There was big money in "green." But, as some of your more cutting-edge colleagues have figured out, we're wising up to your tricks. Meanwhile, the environment? It's getting hotter. But not in the way you want it to.

Listen. There are some really innovative people out there, creating and redesigning and otherwise coming up with really innovative products and projects that really, honestly, genuinely could make a difference in the way we live our lives. But all your "green" marketing (coughgreenwashingcough) now amounts to nothing more than message pollution.

We're suffering from some serious green fatigue. We're skeptical. We're not buying it! And that, my friends, is the end of the line in your industry.

Hugs and kisses, Amanda

Image by Net_Efekt for Oxfam UK. He's got a whole series -- this one's my favorite.