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Guinness advertising: the unexpected eco-debate

Posted by: Helen Walters on August 6, 2008

Time was that a new Guinness ad was something akin to a new Michael Jackson video. A hotly anticipated event that had everyone a-flutter (at least in the U.K.) So I clicked on a review from Contagious magazine of the new ad, featuring a building being transformed to look like a pint of the black stuff via people turning lights on (below), fully expecting to read some debate about the “glorious visuals” or how it “isn’t a patch on” Surfer or Evolution/ or how the brand’s “never been the same since Rutger Hauer” or, you know, the usual.

So imagine my surprise when instead I read a debate about the eco ethics of an ad which features protagonists wantonly flicking light switches on and off. Contagious even questioned an exec from ad agency BBDO who declared that the ad didn’t show a wanton waste of energy, it didn’t, it didn’t and in fact, because so many of the lights in the building are off, they were actually being eco-friendly, they were, they were. Now if you ask me, that’s clearly tosh, but the fact that he was faced with these questions, and that ads are now met with this level of critique (“how much energy did you use/waste creating that brand message?”) demonstrates once again how the green conversation is firmly established at the core of the U.K. The U.S. isn’t there yet, though it’s catching on and catching up — as Marty Neumeier writes in a recent column: “While eco-sustainability isn’t yet top-of-mind for most CEOs, when the tide finally turns, it’ll turn fast”. And as my colleague John Carey wrote in his thought-provoking cover story on the price of oil, “high energy prices water the flowers of innovation.” There’s plenty of exciting developments ahead, but the idea that thoughtful green principles drive *every* business decision seems particularly compelling to me.

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