26 August 2009

selling ideals

I'm puzzling about extreme environmentalism today. Is there such a thing as 'extreme environmentalism'? What does it entail? How far can environmental groups go in order to get their message across?

Most environmental groups aim for the most radical, the most eye-catching, the most headline grabbing advertisement that they can think of to get their messages across. There is a reason for this: the rationale is that unless it is that attention grabbing, people will not react. It is radical simply as a measure to over leap the bonds of apathy. However, there is a thin line between communicating to the audience and alienating them. There is also a thin line between inducing thought and invoking disgust. Where is this line? Who judges?

Greenpeace, WWF and PETA are all known for their advertisements as much as they are known for their campaigning work. Some of their ads border on creative genius, some are cryptic in their message but environmental adverts put an image to the problem. It makes it visual and sometimes, heart-wrenchingly so because everything they portray could be reality. Environmental organizations also have to be very careful in order not appear ambiguous in their campaigns. Adverts exist to get campaign messages across in a succinct manner. Being three different organizations with three different campaign goals and methods to achieve them, the common thread they have is the way they push the message out.

The recent ad campaign done by WWF to highlight global warming features polar bears, seals and penguins as homeless people due to the melting of the poles. This is both clever and gets the message across. Previous WWF campaigns have also featured the decline of wildlife, loss of rainforests and damage to oceans. More recently they focus on climate change issues. Greenpeace's ads also border on the provocative at times without directly targetting at population sector, they instead make you question your choices. The recent adverts done for the climate change campaign borders on brilliant yet they are accessible.

Greenpeace adverts include campaigns for genetically modified food, climate change, protection of oceans and ancient forests. Greenpeace adverts employ catchy slogans and like with other campaigns, stunning visuals. They sometimes have political targets but are otherwise aimed at the general public.

The ad campaign featured by PETA however antagonises a section of the public as it targets obese people. Offensive? Effective? Ridiculous? Everyone seems to have a different opinion on the billboard--no doubt one of PETA's chief aims. But referring to overweight women as 'whales' is pretty rude, no matter whom you ask. This ad campaign drew outrage from feminist groups and healthcare providers alike. PETA's never been subtle. The group's president has postmortem plans to barbeque her own body to make a point about vegetarianism.

The point to be made here is that selling a product is hard enough, selling an ideal is much much harder. If environmental groups are to continue selling ideals, they cannot afford to alienate potential target groups. Any movement is impossible to take off the ground without adequate number of people supporting the cause. The question that should be asked is whether they go after the smaller battles or the bigger wars? Should PETA be targetting animal cruelty or non-vegetarians? They are not mutually inclusive. Ambiguous ad campaigns do little to strengthen an organizations' profile and much less to convince the public of their true motives.

Photos: All images copyrighted to their organizations. Image 1: PETA©. Image 2: WWF ©. Image 3: Greenpeace©

1 comment:

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