Calling all ad agencies: Make sustainability sexy

A video concept competition aims to change the behaviour of 1 billion consumers, so that more than half of global purchases are made with sustainability as a deciding factor, by 2020.

Making sustainability interesting for the man and woman on the street can be tough. But the fate of our planet may depend on how well the value of the natural world is communicated. 

Environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and WiLD Studios, the short film division of production company Natural History New Zealand (NHNZ), have launched a global challenge to inject much-needed creativity into the sustainability conversation.

Called Project Extraordinary, the video concept competition aims to make sustainability “sexy and desirable”.

The challenge is a call for creative minds across the globe to develop a short-form video concept, focused on raising environmental consciousness in consumer behaviour. Winning entries will see concepts developed into films, which will be screened at the Cannes Lions, the advertising industry’s top global awards show, in June 2018.

The goal of the project is to change the behaviour of a targeted 1 billion global consumers, so that more than half of global purchases are made with sustainability as a deciding factor, by 2020. 

Carolyn Managh, executive producer of WiLD Studios explained: “This is a history-making opportunity for a creative agency. To go beyond the documentary format typically applied to this topic and find a sexy and relevant way to reinvent the way sustainability is pitched to global consumers is clearly no small feat. This is why we’ve opened the challenge up to the best creative minds around the world.”

Project Extraordinary promises a new era where the sexiest choice is also the best choice for humanity.

Christy Kilmartin, Asia-Pacific vice-president of marketing, Timberland 

Consumer apathy can be a hurdle for producers of sustainable goods, while marketing departments—which are new to the sustainability dialogue—do not yet consider sustainability to be a brand competitive advantage, or that sustainability is a purchase trigger for consumers, according to Project Extraordinary.

Christy Kilmartin, Asia-Pacific vice-president of marketing for clothing brand Timberland, which is supporting the competition, commented: “One of the biggest challenges brands face today is the gaping disconnect between people’s sustainable values and their purchase behaviours. By harnessing the world’s best creative minds, Project Extraordinary promises a new era where the sexiest choice is also the best choice for humanity.”

An injection of creativity is needed to bridge the disconnect between the ethical values consumers express and the products they actually buy. Presently, only one percent of the materials used to produce consumer goods are still in use six months after sale. 

At a panel by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs last year, senior business leaders and sustainability heads agreed that while Asians may be interested in buying sustainable products, they do not often act on this interest.

This competition, which is open for entry until April 12, is an urgent call to shift buying attitudes and make sustainability a priority choice for consumers everywhere.

Project Extraordinary has said that it hopes that entries are “so sexy and inspiring that consumers start shifting their purchasing behaviours,” with the potential to be integrated into the communications of any brand with sustainability initiatives in place.

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, commented: “We know what we need to do; the science is there. The challenge is to make sustainability of our planet desirable. Inspirational. Let’s get personal and real. We need to stop talking in generalities and show every consumer in every corner of the globe exactly how they can be part of the solution.”

Promotional video for Project Extraordinary featuring natural landscapes and close-ups of wildlife. Video: WiLD Studios

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