Thursday, June 14, 2007

Not a lot of people know that..

I just had a press release from an agency that's not about a thing. It's about what 'we' think about things Climatic, niftily entitled 'Climate What?'

Now, as I continue to struggle with finding the time, or the money to find the people with the time, to help me upload this stuff on our steam-driven site's admin system, I figure why not pop it here on the blog for now?

What caught my eye was that these guys have paid (using bmrb and a sample size of 1,000, which is fair, though having sat through too many focus groups in my ad days how the questions get asked is pretty key, and you seldom know that background) to have confirmed what I have suspected for a while, namely that, despite all the gazzillions being spent and acres of media devoted to it all, most still haven't got a clue.

Or as they say (which is shorthand for I can just cut and paste from now on):

Coverage in the media has never been so high, with the term 'carbon neutral' by all acccounts appearing in the UK media almost 500 times in the past two weeks alone (how do you check that?). However the complex message of climate change and environmentalism is still not being properly communicated to the public.

A recent Environment Agency poll has stated that, despite the hype, less than half of the people in the UK are changing their behaviour to reduce their carbon footprint, and that less than a quarter of these are recycling. Their figures also reveal that 73% of the UK population do not understand what is meant by the term 'carbon neutral'.

"Our findings show that there is still a huge gap in public understanding about the terms used in the media, by government and by big business", says MD Sara Tye, managing director.

Which makes me wonder what the heck the disconnect is, especially when we are seeing bazillions being poured into all sorts of enviro-comms efforts with, seemingly, so little effect. Maybe that odd notion we at Junkk have often floated may be something to do with it, namely scare, guilt, nanny and fine don't quite cut it. A little fun and incentive could go along way, if done right, but the protagonists mentioned don't do that too well, and even if those they commission can, the dead hand of a committee will always lurk in the background.

I'll also nick the following bit (nothing like choosing facts you like) for my own presentation to the VCs next week, but apparently for those companies with an environmental policy (not too sure myself what that actually translates into, but hey) there is a 'potential market of more than 9 million ethical customers who are willing to put their money where their mouth is'.

However, the newly motivated eyebrow-twitching journalist would like to know more about the 65 % of the respondents in the study who do understand what 'carbon neutral' means, and said they would pay more for products that they knew were going to help the environment [my italics].

As we've discussed here many times before, there is a subtle, but yawning gap between not doing as bad as you might, and actually doing good. And while better is better than nothing, education does need to get to grips with the total ramifications of the purchase of a product or service. Otherwise we will soon find ourselves with something like, oo, say... ethical space tourism: 'I blasted 6 billion litres of greenhouse gasses to get up here, and all I needed to do was plant a forest the size of Belgium to buy it off!'.

What I did rather like was my age range (45-54. Not telling you where in that, though) is the savviest, and would be prepared to pay a premium if they knew it was helping the environment (note my bold). Apparently only 24% of the 25-34 age group understood the term carbon neutral, despite being the most likely to be willing to pay more for carbon neutral products. Which leads me to ponder whether greens wash best with those more inclined not to ask awkward questions. Or care. Green is in danger of becoming a fashion item, and consequently just as easily dropped later on.

And without trying to get to Ecky-thump as to why, it seems there is is something of a North/South environmental awareness divide. Only 18 per cent of residents in Yorkshire/ Humberside are carbon neutral savvy. This contrasts with the 32 per cent of the population living in the South West as the most eco aware area of the UK. Maybe those Priuses are not so good on the Dales?


Without attribution I'm taking this definition slightly on trust, but it seems to be fair enough, but of course we get into the detail of further terminology such as 'offsetting', which opens up whole new cans of worms. (I'm seeing Heather Gorringe of Wiggly Wigglers today, by the way).

The term Carbon Neutral can be applied when an activity has a Net Zero Emissions of carbon. This can be achieved through an investment which offsets the carbon produced by the relevant activity. This offsetting is most often achieved through Carbon sequestration which is the term describing processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by capturing and storing carbon (while releasing oxygen) both naturally and artificially.

Of course I have come up with enviROI, which Carbon Neutral can loosely be factored into. No wonder the general public is often confused!

All in the best possible taste

As it says: Finally some common sense

Couldn't agree more. But I doubt it will make a gosh-darn bit of difference.

There are vast industries feeding off (sorry) anything like this, from government to quango to the media, where stirring it up, talking about it in excited ways and then taking steps can lead to lots of lovely jobs and lucre researching, assessing, running campaigns and getting Shocked on a Sunday.

I am beginning to wonder if everything we buy will have so much that we 'need' to know it will come with its own CDR that will need viewing pre-consumption. Which is about as likely as me figuring out what all the guff on there already means.

Mind you, I just saw a news item where it seems that parents have not figured that letting their kids eat all the pies may explain why they look like the DPM.

But I'm sure they are not the kind plonked in front of the telly 24/7, so maybe another COI-budget hike may be the answer? Adland awaits the siren call. There's almost as much to be made saying don't as promoting the culprit in the first place.

How sweet is that?


And ad with babies.

Ford 'next generation' by Ogilvy

And then, my attempt at answering a question:

I am still absorbing the exchanges of a day spent at the Guardian Climate Change Conference, which included a 'breakout' session for 'the media'.

One thing was clear: there were a lot of folk there from a lot places with a very definite 'interest' in the environment. What their motivations were, and what they were saying vs. what they were doing remains to be seen. The main sponsor was Shell, and the hand that fed got a little bitten, if reports the next day were anything to go by. Of a lot that was shared to show what they were doing, more seemed to pick up on a fair old bunch they were not. Feral media in action? Or a slight kickback against tokenistic greenwash? It's a really difficult one.

So let me apply a purely consumer view on this effort, fuelled (!) by a more than passing awareness of and interest in things ad, marketing and, as you may gather, planet-saving.

Thanks to this ad, I know of a thing called Flexifuel. I know little else. It's for future generations, apparently, but that's it.

So, a company making and promoting the means to travel about may (or may not) be making something that addresses climate change caused by exhaust emissions, if not the all the other consequences of manufacture, use and disposal (though car companies are pretty ahead in this regard).

Do I care? Do I feel warm and fuzzy? Do I see the brand most associated with mass transport and mass-production of consumer goods as a delicate, planet-saving flower? Yes, no and maybe, in various measures across all. They didn't make the ad for fun, so its intention was to sow a seed of mitigation against the name. Not flog Jeremy Clarkson another F40.

And why not? Others do nothing. Some do worse. The ASA report seems to be getting more and more packed with dodgy greenwash claims masquerading as responsible ads/services to address such issues.

I can think of worse things to have on screen. I just hope what lies behind it is genuine and sincere. And if it is not, those involved to feel very proud.

If a client comes to you and says 'Here's a thing we'd like you to sell for us that's a tad better for the planet', I'd admire any who say 'No thanks, we'll stick with the Party Poker TVC brief. It's more honest'.

If we are serious about climate change it will take a lot more, a lot earlier in the chain, to do the necessary. What happens later, especially at the consumer end, is really just window-dressing.

Now, where's that Massive Attack 'Best Of'?

What she said

I have been having a go a lot lately. Time to let someone else do it (and cop the 'you're just being beastly, as it is all in a good cause' flak): Janet Street-Porter: The awful conceit of these New Puritans

Bet they will all be getting gussied up for Live Earth as we speak. But I'm also thinking our Janet may fancy a bit of a party, too.

I will mostly not be going, but only 'cos I haven't been invited. I think I am doing quite enough for eco-awareness without having to pay a bunch of climate offset brokers more than they already have.

ps: Shame she managed to rather dyslexificate the TRAID acronym. Though it may get a few Chinese gangsters running the eco-sweatshops on board.

Hear no evil. See no evil. Certainly don't write about it. And that way many comfy, high paid jobs can enjoy the status quo.

It was ever thus. Probably.

But here I must commit the seemingly terrible, unsporting, and un-British crime of wondering if things are as good as they could be, and seek in the only ways I know to understand why. And, if not as good as is possible, see how they may be improved, through word and, preferably, deed.

A few weeks ago, I wrote to our local paper. We live in a lovely market town, enjoying a lifestyle which most city chums envy like mad. However, one Friday night I was walking my kids home from a club and we had to endure a trip that was something out of a bad post-apocalyptic C-movie. Screaming harridans. Drunken aggression. Roving cars with more spent on the turbo dump than the MOT. It was not pretty. And I thought it needed addressing. So I appealed to those in power, or tasked to assist, but there was no reply.

The next week the banner was taken up by another, who coined the rather colourful phrase 'Beirut in Bloom', and advocated vigilante groups. Now, this seemed a tad in excess of requirements, but certainly this time got a reaction. A lesson learned?

Thing is, the reaction from councillors was pretty much 'don't trash our town by talking it down'. I won't go into the rest, but suffice to say there will be a lot of 'discussing', 'looking at', and 'raising of' during the next voting period with, one suspects, a flurry of 'initiatives' pre-election.

And while it did not figure too highly in the Guardian Climate Change Conference (review well underway, trust me), there was a hint of what I see waaaay too often these days by way of a diversion by those who get called upon to explain the frilly kickers around their ankles.

And this is the time-honoured cry that there should be no criticism, as it doesn't help make things better. To an extent this is true, but there is criticism, and there is criticism.

As our outbound Dear Leader tried, in his best 'am I bovvered?' way, to point out, there can be an extreme whereby it is simply 'damn at any cost, and fire a full salvo of torpedoes as something bad is bound to get hit'. Sadly, for those like me who mostly agreed with him this was rather unproductive, this came from a guy who also kinda, sorta is on a shaky pedestal when it comes to legitimate investigation and commentary. You know, things like being caught in, at best, a failure to deliver on promise or, at worst, a total porkie.

I honestly don't know what to do for the best, but I don't think it's an option to shut up and trust that the system, and those who run it are always competent or indeed often honest enough to be let off without being called to explain, if not account.

So I won't.

Hence I will be asking a few local councillors and the county plod what 'Total tosh" actually means by way of an official reply to charges of failures to police under-age drink sales, anti-social behaviour and potentially dangerous driving.

As I will also continue to do with those in government, local government and associated multi-million £ quangos, when to legitimate questions raised by a lot of savvy folk, I mostly seem to find the reply is "Don't rock the boat, as ... we are 'discussing'/'looking at'/ 'raising' it...'.

Monkey see. Monkey do.


I recently wrote a review of the Wiggly Wiggler event, and offered it to the local paper who were more than keen. But some sod has obviously distracted them from this nice, positive piece with more on this issue. And this person seems to have been... me.

Seems that in chatting to them about one thing, another got into the mix and, well, you know what sells papers. So now I am, if in the most sincere manner, complicit. I don't know if the Ross Gazette content is online to point to what appeared, both as article and letter, but as this is long archived at least I feel I should add my notes to them when asked to comment further.

Let the tush-tissue operation commence!

Oo-eck. Am I going to get in trouble? I feel I started all this with my letter to you guys a while ago! So long as it comes across as trying to improve things as opposed to just having a go that's fine. I did not feel the vigilante aspect was going in a helpful direction, and wrote to the Journal (who jumped on the bandwagon a bit sensationally) to clarify, and am glad they printed that.

However, looking at what you reported* our councillors as coming up with in response, it all seemed a bit low on.... tangibles. And if we are to sort out what, despite the 'tosh' dismissal, they seemed to agree was a problem that needing nipping in the bud, I think a tad more substance may be in order. And it may surprise them that I am not alone.

*'Cllrs agree a stronger police presence was needed... and are requesting a visit... so they can relay their fears' - so they have them too, it's not really 'tosh' then? And fears have not be relayed before? Surely not? If so, why not?

*Cllr Lucas - 'We don't need reminding that we only have one policeman dedicated to the town' - Well, from reading the rest maybe it seems they do. What else don't they feel in need of reminding of? Not a great bit of feedback. As to tanks, well, I suspect Mr. Jenkins was being 'colourful'. There are no AK-47s either, but can Cllr Lucas argue that, at times, there are not groups occupying certain areas outside of normally accepted levels of behaviour, with the forces of law a tad absent? I think his rebuttal was disingenuous at best.

*Cllr Cutter - 'the lack of a police presence needed addressing' - to address what, if not real and legitimate concerns?

*Cllr Ravenscroft, whilst offering at least one suggestion (a community police officer. Hmn. Powers? Authority? Support? We are talking some rather nasty stuff to deal with here) - 'Ross is not alone' - So, as Beirut (ok, some Yardie areas of Brum) has it bad then we can't look at putting our own town in order? This is an oddly dismissive comparison and justification to make. I for one don't care about elsewhere. My family lives here. If it's about stretched resources that is well worth bringing to the fore. Why are they stretched? What can be done? Who is not doing their job(s), as a shrug and 'life's tough' isn't really going to cut it.

*Cllr Bartrum - '2/3 of a recent forum felt there was a perception of lawlessness' - And yet it's 'tosh' to be concerned, then? Two thirds!!! I don't know what forum it was, but as a reflection of the town that's a fairly hefty sample!

Whilst agreeing Mr. Jenkins may have been a tad OTT, especially with his vigilante talk, it's what gets you noticed by the media... and politicians.

And can these worthy gents really argue that there are not people under the influence (if underage why, how?), and who do drive in ways that are not reasonable (why?), and who are likely responsible for the town's other possible twinning moniker: Ross-in-Shuttering, for all the smashed and boarded windows.

To deny this, and that some people at least are aware, unhappy and even threatened that not all is as rosy as it could and should be, seems... interesting, at least to this voter assessing the new team as they settle in. As is what I sensed was a slight message of 'butt out', which did not sit well. But maybe, and I hope this was the case, this was by reading it without the benefit of hearing it being said.

The curse of Junkk

There was a time when I pretty much jogged along, did what I did, tried, a la Google, 'to do no harm', and accepted pretty much all that those who knew better - government, teachers, doctors, police... media - served up almost without thinking.

That has now rather drastically changed, so when I see such as this I really can't resist a scope and a ponder. And, often, get moved to put RSI-riddled wrist to keyboard rest. Which is a curse, because throughout the day I seem to do it a lot.

Take this: World oil supplies are set to run out faster than expected, warn scientists

My first thought was 'So what?', and the second was 'What scientists?'. Well, let's look at the second first.

First up, it seems this headline has taken a rebuttal by group of scientists to one from another group, which seem to be saying there's a bit of it still sloshing about. This is shaping up like a climate change debate, and we know by now where those get us.

To my very simplistic 'So what?' the kicker is at the end. Of course, if it's the stuff we are addicted to and messing the place up, then having no more to play with would seem to sort out the problem... er.. wouldn't it?

Well, as this clearly shows... no.

And I am now cursed some more with trying to get my head around it all.

So it must be true...

I am almost immediately wary of anything that is billed under the title 'The Truth About...', but in a media environment currently dominated by factual extremes, - from over-funded, target-based ads to spoil-at-any-costs tabloids splashes - The Economist can usually be relied upon to provide slightly more journalistic integrity in its research and analysis: The Truth About Recycling

Or... can it?:)