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The Campaign Blocking Brands’ Greenwashing Ads During Global Climate Summit COP26

While walking through Westminster underground in early Autumn 2020, Jake Dubbins, the managing director of Media Bounty—the London-based independent ethical creative and media agency—noticed a number of adverts he hadn’t seen anywhere else for brands such as BP, defense electronics company BAE Systems and some others. From this, a campaign idea was born that would target the delegates of the environmental summit. He saw it as being one of the last opportunities to reverse the climate crisis and prevent brands from running “greenwashing” claims.

“Huh. I wonder why that is,” Dubbins thought to himself of the campaigns that seemed to be unique to this location. It was long before his present surroundings dawned on him. With the British Parliament, Big Ben and the House of Lords situated nearby, this was clearly an area where big brands tried to get their messages across to law and policy-makers using good old-fashioned advertising.

Then another idea occurred to him about how he could use this insight during COP26, the environmental summit being held in Glasgow, Scotland at the beginning of November 2021 to not only reach world leaders and delegates with positive messaging but prevent major advertisers from delivering their own dubious sustainability communications.

“You just know that there’s going to be a lot of corporates and fossil fuel companies that will probably want to do exactly the same as they do around Westminster,” he theorizes to Adweek with just over a week until the summit begins. Discussing it with his partners in the business they thought “Should we try and get as much space as we can?”

Backing the campaign

With the backing of charity the Quadrature Climate Foundation and 40 other eco-organizations, funds were raised to hire advertising agency Iris following a pitch to create an ad campaign that would take up the space coveted by major brands during the summit. With three months to go, Iris set about creating work that would highlight the urgency and seriousness of the climate emergency, ultimately developing “The World is Looking To You COP26” to highlight the need for wholesale changes to the global response.

“We build on Jake’s insight which is that COP26 is this bubble and as much as it is the center of climate concern right now, it is also very detached from the rest of the world. A lot of conversation surrounding delegates is around bits of text… it all becomes very theoretical. We wanted to cut through that theory and make real the issue within the corridors of COP,” outlines Ben Essen, chief strategy officer for Iris.

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