Why Killing Kids in a Climate Change Ad Was the Right Thing to Do

Last Updated Oct 5, 2010 10:56 AM EDT

10:10's apology and retraction of a short film in which schoolchildren, famous footballers and the actress Gillian Anderson are blown to smithereens for not supporting the reduction of carbon emissions was exactly the wrong thing to do: The video (below) was both disgusting and hilarious, and the campaign should have thumbed its nose at its critics.

Listening more to your critics than your supporters is a common mistake for brand managers to make. In this case, 10:10 is a campaign group trying to persuade everyone to reduce their greenhouse gas production by 10 percent every year, starting now. It's a worthy but dull mission.

So the group commissioned Richard Curtis, director of Love Actually and Pirate Radio and writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, to make a video that people might actually pay attention to. He succeeded magnificently: His film shows a series of trite vignettes from ordinary life in which anyone who does not agree to go green is summarily blown to bits. There's blood and gore everywhere.

It culminates with Anderson's annihilation after she complains, "Are you kidding me? I thought that by doing this voiceover that was my contribution."

The haters piled on in spades. James Delingpole, writing in The Telegraph:

This isn't, of course, the first time green propagandists have inadvertently revealed the murderous misanthropy which lurks behind their cloak of ecological righteousness.
Whatever. No one but the most extreme climate change denier believes this is actually what environmentalists want. It's obviously just a joke outrageous enough to actually get people's attention. (I've discussed previously how being over-the-top is actually a necessary ingredient of successful web video.)

Instead of standing proud and telling the deniers to suck it up, 10:10 director Eugenie Harvey caved instantly:

Subsequently there has been negative comment about the film, particularly on blogs, and concern from others working hard to build support for action on climate change. We are very sorry if this has distracted from their efforts.
We are also sorry to our corporate sponsors, delivery partners and board members, who have been implicated in this situation despite having no involvement in the film's production or release.
What a pathetic display! How is Harvey supposed to save the planet if she withers before a blog? A somewhat similar situation befell the Sun Chips snack brand recently. It changed its bags to a biodegradeable plant material that happens to be incredibly loud when crumpled. The bags are so loud they became their own meme. At that point, Frito Lay ought to have rolled out new advertising celebrating the in-your-face volume of its new packaging, but no. The company is actually embarrassed by it:
Truth be told, our compostable bag sounds a bit different than our other bags, That's because the plant-based materials used to make our compostable bag have different sound qualities than the materials used to make our other bags. Although our compostable bag is a bit louder, we hope you'll appreciate its environmental benefits.
The company is currently trying to figure out a way to make the bags quieter. That's just sad. UPDATE: Frito Lay decided to kill the bags completely.
Both Frito Lay and 10:10 should learn from Smart USA, which markets the tiny Smart Fortwo car. It's main disadvantage is that it only seats two people. So the company -- via ad agency BBDO -- made a compilation of horror movie pastiches in which drivers are axed, stabbed, and garrotted by people popping out of the passenger seat behind them. "No backseats," the ad promises.

It's a similar situation with PETA, the animal rights group. Do you think they back down in the face of critics? Of course not. That's why you don't even need to click this link to know how they linked water conservation in Oklahoma to vegetarianism.

Frito Lay and 10:10 need to make like Smart and PETA -- and grow a pair.


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