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Wonderful, Wonderful “Hopenhagen”

Thank goodness, everything’s going to be OK. The world’s major advertising agencies are galloping to the rescue on climate change.

“Hopenhagen” is the name of a global marketing campaign launched by the United Nations and the world’s biggest agencies. It is going to “raise awareness” of the importance of the climate change summit in Denmark in December, and try to move the public mindset “from ‘coping’ with climate change to one of ‘hope’ that action can be taken to tackle the issue”.

A scary-sounding "aggressive consumer launch” is planned for September. The first ads will be displayed this week at the Cannes Lions global advertising festival, at Heathrow airport and at airports in the US.

A new website gushes: “Hopenhagen is a movement, a moment and a chance at a new beginning. The hope that we can create a global community that will lead our leaders into making the right decisions. The hope that by solving our environmental crisis, we can solve our economic crisis at the same time. Hopenhagen is change – and that change will be powered by all of us.”

People are invited to insert the things that “give them hope”. They are, of course, putting in things like their partner, their children, their football team, their favourite rock band or their hero. Nobody is rushing to say that the idea of 192 delegates, and probably 20 times that number of corporate lobbyists, meeting in the Danish capital gives them any hope whatsoever.

The campaign strategy and the adverts have been developed by advertising giant WPP’s subsidiary Ogilvy & Mather (other clients: Nestlé, Motorola, Coca-Cola, Castrol and Ford). Global PR will be handled by the other industry leader Omnicom, through their Ketchum subsidiary (other clients: Con-Agra foods, Delta Airlines, Roche, and the Russian government).

There is no point having a go at the individuals in the agencies who have come up with this campaign. Ad agencies are full of talented and creative people, and when you speak to them it is always the pro-bono, not-for-profit work they get to do that they are proudest of.

But really, we can’t halt climate change purely with hope.

A campaign to ban behind-the-scenes horse trading and corporate lobbying would be more useful – it could be called “openhagen”. Not only behind the scenes, but right up front, the corporations are calling the shots on what will be in the treaty. “In” will be more carbon trading and investment in techno-fixes and nuclear energy. “Out” will go any action to halt emissions by banning the corporations from continuing reckless extraction and burning of fossil fuels, destruction of the rain forests for agri-business and unsustainable production of goods for profit.

The agencies’ partner in the campaign, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon says Hopenhagen is about global action for a climate treaty and a better future for humankind: "Climate change is one of the epic challenges facing this and future generations. It is time to seal a deal. We need a global movement that mobilises real change.”

He is absolutely right! And so, I suggest that we all go to the Hopenhagen website and insert the following:

What gives me hope is the thought that the world’s population will rise up in their millions against the profit-hungry capitalist system, remove from the corporations and their client governments any power to make decisions, and implement a new era of democracy and popular control over resources that will act to tackle climate change.

That may be an epic challenge, but it is still the only way forward. I’m thinking of calling it “Stopenhagen”!

Penny Cole
Environment editor
25 June 2009

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