The Cannes of COP – The Top 10 Climate Campaigns from COP28

COP really is THE key moment of the year for many organisations to launch campaigns. But in all the noise, who’s being seen and heard? Is there still room for creativity at COP? 

There is no Cannes for COP, so we made our own. We’ve picked the top 10 favourite campaigns we’ve seen in our feeds from Dubai. 

We’ve built MSQ/Sustain on the notion that ideas really can accelerate change. That brilliant creative communications, creative thinking and excellent execution can cut-through and change hearts, minds, behaviours and policies faster… We strive to get close to this in our work, while celebrating those in other agencies who are also doing it brilliantly. 

So here is our review of the best creative ideas from COP28 (in our humble opinion, of course!). 

Oblivia Coalmine

Lucky Generals and a “potty-mouthed” Olivia Colman delivered the performance of the year for Make My Money Matter. £88 billion of your pension money is invested in fossil fuel companies – if you want to do something simple to help, get your pension moved to a clean fund next year. Money talks.  

I wish I’d been in the room for this film’s genesis moment:  
“Olivia’s in, so what have we got?” 
“Surely there’s something in Colman/Coalman?” 
“OK I’ve nailed it…Olivia Coalmine. Genius” 
“Nah mate….Oblivia Coalmine… CEO. In latex……Done. Pub?”

Atmospheric Agency

The campaign that keeps on giving… So good, it actually hurts. Atmospheric – a new ‘agency’ set up to pitch against McCann for Aramco. An agency with a purpose – to Keep The Fire Burning™. An agency with everything an agency should have – a website, LinkedIn pages, a portfolio of great work, a stellar management team, a brilliant blog, and values they can believe in. Even an open-source pitch deck on Google Docs for anyone to add ideas to…. If it’s the craftsmanship and attention to detail that turns a good idea into a great one, then there’s a case study right here. Love it. 

Louise Harris ‘We Tried’

You may remember Louise from a gantry overlooking the M25. A Just Stop Oil activist, she’s pivoted from stopping traffic to topping the UK iTunes Singles Chart, trying to take a protest song to Xmas No.1 – and overtaking Dua Lipa and the Beatles in the process. Her song ‘We Tried’ is a raw “climate anthem”, championed by well-known environmental advocates like Chris Packham, Brian Eno, and Christiana Figueres, amongst others.  

We’ve often been told that great campaign ideas infect culture, and while it doesn’t mean as much anymore to have a Christmas No.1 (Ladbaby?), who in a creative agency wouldn’t aspire to have their work at the top the charts? It’s not a toe-tapping banger, but it’s putting the message into the phones and ears of the public in a really innovative way. Fair play. 

Climate Science Breakthroughs

There’s a bit of a theme developing here: how to mainstream climate action, how to insert awareness into mass consciousness, without resorting to alarmist doom-mongering (which research shows we are all pretty numb to now anyway). Climate Science Breakthrough is trying to do exactly that: “to improve the links between the public and established climate science – by increasing the number of people who understand the true nature of the crisis, we can help drive a societal shift that will result in more rapid climate action”.  

This campaign is a collaboration between CSB founder Nick Oldridge and The Utopia Bureau (a climate communications agency founded by Ben Carey and Henrik Delehag – both ex-advertising creative directors). It’s a simple idea – get famous, straight-talking celebs and comedians to translate climate science into something we can all understand. Starring Nish Kumar, Jo Brand, Jonathan Pie. 3 million views, £0 media spend. Well played – a brilliant idea, brilliantly executed. 

Watch the videos here

EPIC

And to continue with that thought, a new campaign launched at COP28 – called EPIC (Earth Public Information Collaborative). It comes from the folks at Earth.hq and the Global Commons Alliance, and the idea is to move 1 billion people off the sidelines and into active engagement in the climate crisis – using the power of communications, media, advertising and creativity. The campaign got started with the publication of a brilliant paper – with contributions from the great and the good – the who’s who of advertising and sustainability comms. The campaigns premise is simple: Climate change needs repositioning in the public consciousness, and who better to change the narrative than those who shape it. I guess it’s what we strive to do in a small way at MSQ/Sustain. We’re in. Are you? 

Fossil of the Day Award

A climate COP being held in a petro-state – what could possibly go wrong? While much of the world wants to move forwards, there are a few hell-bent on holding us back. Labelled ‘dinosaurs’ by the Climate Action Network (CAN). CAN is a potent organisation, the world’s largest climate network made up of more than 1,900 civil society organisations in over 130 countries. Each year at COP they hand out the ‘Fossil of the Day Award’. These awards are given to the countries who are “doing the most to achieve the least” in terms of the climate negotiations and progress on climate action. All done in the best possible taste, of course, but an effective way to call out bad behaviours. We like. 

Time 100 Climate

The 100 most influential climate leaders in business. Time – famous for putting a person of the year on its front cover – has this time put 100 on there. Classified into catalysts, titans, leaders, innovators and defenders, it’s a brilliant list of exceptional people. But as a campaign idea, it works in many ways – not just to big-up the 100, but to set a benchmark for what real climate leadership looks like within the business sector, to set a bar for others to aspire to, and to showcase that leadership can happen in difficult industries and sectors. It reassures me that those with the power to make change happen are at least trying to do the right thing. I’m looking forward to how far they can take this idea in 2024, and how it can become something bigger than just a list. 

The Great Climate Fight

Back to our theme of putting climate action into the mainstream, nice work by Channel 4 who aired a mini-series in the lead-up to COP28 called The Great Climate Fight. Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Mary Portas “urge the government to act, and save us money at the same time. Climate change can be stopped and the solutions could benefit us all”. Countering one of the current arguments that net zero will bankrupt us all, it’s a great way of demystifying some of the big changes we are all going to be going through – switching to heat pumps, electric vehicles, renewable energy and insulating our homes. When you think about it, this is a really exciting time of change – and I hope for a lot more content like this, showing just how obvious, cheap and exciting the net zero economic transition can be. It’s not just for smart meter geeks like me… 

Fortescue Green Pioneer

Great ideas come in all shapes and sizes, and this one’s a ship. Fortescue – whom I’ve admired for a long time for their brilliant comms, design aesthetic and hard-hitting messages – brought a ship to COP. And not just any ship – the Fortescue Green Pioneer is an old-school fossil-fuel powered ship that’s been retrofitted to run on green ammonia. Parking it up in Dubai during COP28, it became a brilliant symbol of the technological solutions needed to decarbonise shipping. PR moment complete when they invited John Kerry aboard to toast its arrival. 

An unlikely climate leader – Fortescue have reinvented themselves from an Australian mining company to a world-leading voice on green energy and hydrogen. And it’s quite a pivot – diversifying their business to become “an integrated, global green energy and metals company” and a powerful voice for change. Not sure which agency did their new logo and brand work, but it’s bloody marvelous. 

Nature Positive

OK, of course I’m going to include one of our own campaigns – this one for the Nature Positive Coalition of NGO’s we work for. 

I’m sure we all know the red and blue ‘climate stripes’ which are justifiably iconic. The ‘biodiversity stripes’ (created by Miles Richardson, Professor of Nature Connectedness at Derby University) work in a similar way, and are a powerful and compelling visualisation of the decline in nature. From green to grey, it uses the Living Planet Index data to chart the dramatic and bleak decline in biodiversity that has been happening since 1970. They were created to raise awareness of biodiversity loss, which has received 8x less coverage than climate change. 

Our Nature Positive campaign (winner of a Campaign Magazine Purpose Award, no less) has adopted Prof. Richardson’s Nature Stripes and, with deceptive simplicity, inverted them. Rather than a metric of decline, we want to use them as a symbol of optimism. We believe that change is possible – change is, after all, in our nature. The Nature Positive campaign got extensive coverage at COP27, Biodiversity COP15 and now COP28. It has had a huge role to play in making sure the term “nature-positive” is now as mainstream, as compelling, and as urgent as the term ‘net zero’, with HRH King Charles even using the term in his speech during the World Leaders Summit at COP28. 

J.