Sorry Manchester, you can’t claim to be first in blocking high carbon adverts as you like to do with so many other things. There’s been a climate change ‘action plan’ in place here since at least 2010, with the states ambition to o ‘create a low carbon culture’. Adverts are very much an extension of our culture – creating an environment of care-free consumption without consequence is what high carbon ads are designed to do.
We did a little digging recently into the legacy of historic ads, which clearly shows fossil fuel companies have been greenwashing and gaslighting the public with ads since at least the early 90’s with Exxon (aka Esso in the UK) clearly talking about investing in “new energy source” aka renewables in early 1980’s!
Oh and there’s this trippy number promoting the fallacy of a ‘clean’ diesel engine from Honda in the mid-00’s that has also not aged well following the dieselgate scandal…
We have been constantly fed these adverts produced at great cost by top agencies,convincing us that the companies are doing stuff to improve things and the masses should not be as concerned as they might otherwise be…Well we’ve seen how that’s turned out now.
Manchester has failed over the past 13 years in efforts to create that ‘low carbon culture’. Emblematic of this is the way it talks from the other side of its mouth, allowing more energy-hungry digital adboards blocking pavements and lit up 24/7 with messages to its residents to consume more and more. It now cannot afford to turn these things off thanks to the millions it receives every year from them. The ad board company pays penance to placate any concerns by planting a few trees and funding a few other token initiatives related to social inequalities. When it created the new contract for “small format advertising in the city” in Feb 2019 it had a 20 point list of things the adverts could not include. This includes not promoting any “politically, environmentally or socially controversial subjects or issues”. But remains silent on high-carbon products or services like SUVs and flights and very narrowly scoped on junk food.
If you look to other cities and boroughs you’ll see a lot more going on.. Adblocks – a precursor to badverts has been around since 2017 in Bristol opposing new billboards and there are similar outfits successfully opposing planning for new billboards in Lambeth and Hackney.
We don’t have to go far to find a city with a ban on high-carbon adverts, just down the ship canal in Liverpool back in January 2021 a motion was unanimously passed to create a low carbon advertising policy. We’ll check in with those who pushed for this to find out how that is going and maybe if we get the chance might go on a little field trip down the River Mersey to go high carbon ad spotting to see how well it’s being implemented.
Norwich has also voted unanimously for a similar motion in June 2021 to create an ethical advertising policy, but it seems the council is dragging its feet when it comes to creating something and putting that policy into action.
Bristol was the first city to put in a more restrictive advertising and sponsorship policy after pressure campaigners, but fell short of covering all high-carbon ads as it covered junk food, gambling and payday loans.
As Manchester’s policy was created before the climate emergency declaration, but well after it had a zero carbon target / budget out to 2038, which smacks of a lack of coordination within the council… We think it’s time to review this policy and bolster it to include products and services that drive greater use of fossil fuels that actively undermine the city’s efforts to become zero carbon by 2038. It could go further and pressure the companies in the ‘Manchester Cimate Change Partnership’ (looking at you Man City FC, HOME and Manchester Airport) as well as Transport for Greater Manchester, Network Rail, Global media, BT and JC Decaux to do the same – that’s what leadership looks like.
If you’d like to get involved, start sending us your pics of monstrous high carbon ads in Manchester with a location and date to @climateemergmcr or email@example.com
Alternatively, feel free to mine the historic ad archives of the historic advertising trust and then look for them on youtube to share on social media for any absolute screamers of awful high carbon ads! They seem to have been part of the social fabric of our society for the past three decades or more – and it’s plainly obvious companies and advertisers have known about how harmful their products are since then…