State

Do it for the polar bears!

For marketers, climate guilt isn't the easiest thing to sell. Part of the audience doesn't have it and doesn't want it. Another segment of the audience is too paralyzed or resigned to respond to new messages.

So can you change all these minds with a single ad? U.S. environmental groups have focused on the bright side, playing up the side benefits of tackling greenhouse gases. But in other countries, some activist groups and governments have used much darker messages.

Their main tactics:

1. Stop polluting, or the kid gets it! This ad, produced by the British ministry for climate change, has been the subject of complaints from viewers who think it's too scary for children. In it, global warming looks like a giant monster that makes bunnies weep and drowns puppies.

2. Stop polluting, or animals get it! A spot from the Portuguese environmental group Quercus is among the most startling ads that focus on the threats to animals. It bypasses the slow drama of actual biology and shows animals committing suicide because of climate change.The message: "If you give up, they give up."

3. Stop polluting, or you'll get it! This ad, produced for the World Wildlife Fund, is among those trying to rebut the argument that climate change is an issue for some other generation. This one, however, makes an unusual threat that, at least so far, doesn't seem to be backed up by science: Climate change will turn you into a merman.

4. Stop polluting, you big jerk! These types of ads try to show high-polluting Westerners the way others (or at least some environmentalists) see them: as revolting knuckleheads. In this spot, produced for a contest run by the British branch of the charity OxFam, an energy- wasting man is confronted by a man from a drought-ridden African village, who, Three Stooges style, hits him with a pie.

Fahrenthold covers the environment for The Washington Post. E-mail him at fahrenthold@washpost.com.

THE WASHINGTON POST

  Comments