NESTA report says 'miserable' climate change campaigns won't work - time for a new approach


Government advertising campaigns on climate change won’t work unless they stop being miserable, gloomy and bleak - and, instead, start encouraging more people to take positive action on climate change, says a new report by the UK's National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, (NESTA) just published.

The report reveals how harnessing commercial-style advertising and marketing techniques would make a powerful impact on changing the behaviour of individuals in response to the threat of climate change and provides incisive consumer insight into why current campaigns may be failing.

NESTA commissioned BMRB (British Market Research Bureau) to conduct research for its report - 'Selling sustainability - seven lessons from advertising and marketing to sell low carbon living' - into the effectiveness of advertising on individual behaviour change. The report says that, while UK policy has responded to some degree to the threat of climate change, the UK government has not yet fully embraced the importance of mass behaviour change to respond to it.

Furthermore, despite increasing efforts to engage the public on climate change and link it to their individual behaviour, there is little evidence of significant behaviour change to reduce emissions. This is because there is often a gap between awareness of climate change and individual action.

NESTA CEO, Jonathan Kestenbaum, said - “The report shows it’s not enough to simply make people aware of climate change issues. To have a mass impact, campaigns must engage people in a compelling way and persuade them to change their behaviour.”

The research shows that -

  • Campaigns should avoid being ‘miserable, gloomy and bleak’ (despite the potentially catastrophic consequences of not acting), instead emphasising that taking action on climate change is ‘normal’ - encouraging more people to engage with it.
  • Campaigns should recognise the importance of fairness - i.e. Everyone needs to be seen to be doing their bit, including government and industry.
  • Campaigns should be personally relevant. They should relate to our environment, not the environment and should use insight from commercial ads to engage emotional responses.
  • Campaigns should identify the opportunities for individuals in taking action. For example, consumer research shows that millions of people desire a lower-stress, less consumption orientated lifestyle - this could form one basis for a social marketing campaign.

Based on rigorous analysis of the most effective commercial and social advertising campaigns, the NESTA report enshrines a new set of core principles which it strongly recommends should be harnessed for any future public campaigns, dubbed - 'The 7Cs' - ads should be clear, compelling, connected, creative, configured, consistent and confident.

To view the full TV ad version of the Honda - 'Hate Something - Change Something' - cited as a good example in the Supplementary report - Click Here

Note -
'Hate Something - Change Something' can be found 2nd row from bottom.