This week, advertising industry campaign group Clean Creatives released research that uncovered 500 fossil fuel contracts from 294 different advertising and PR agencies from 2022 and 2023. The report named major agencies such as Dentsu, Edelman, Ogilvy, Havas, Omnicom, Interpublic Group (IPG) and Publicis who currently hold fossil fuel contracts with companies such as Shell, Geneco, Petronas, Saudi Aramco and more under its purview.
The F-List 2023 Report aimed to show the climate impact of marketers work for fossil fuel companies
“Scientists and global leaders have condemned the work carried out by advertising and PR agencies to spread fossil fuel disinformation, and their warnings demand a response," said Duncan Meisel, executive director at Clean Creatives. "This is a turning point for the industry - communications agencies who work for oil and gas clients are knowingly accelerating the global climate emergency, and their legal risks will accelerate, too," he said, adding:
The ad and PR industry cannot continue to be this far out of step with scientific and political reality and expect to avoid backlash.
Key findings from the report showed that the holding company with the most fossil fuel contracts is WPP, with 55 contracts despite their global net zero pledge. Holding company Omnicom comes in second, with 39 contracts. The holding company agency with the most public fossil fuel contracts on the other hand is Ogilvy, with at least seven contracts, including the American Petroleum Institute, BP, Petrobras, and more. Agencies with at least six contracts are OMD, Hill + Knowlton, GRACosway, DDB and IPG Mediabrands, it said.
It added that individual analysis of these firms revealed its "tactics for misleading an industry" into believing they’re progressing on sustainability goals.
"This shows that, despite agencies’ net zero promises and sustainability pledges, they continue to promote the oil and gas industry," said Nayantara Dutta, research director of Clean Creatives. "We share our data publicly to encourage transparency so that creatives at agencies can learn who they are working for and have the tools to take action. Our research process is based on public records and we welcome corrections and updates from agencies who are no longer working with fossil fuel clients,” she said.
The report's launch will be combined with an out-of-home marketing campaign targeted at employees of the firms listed across New York City. In the posters, which have since been posted on Clean Creatives' social media pages.
The posters directly address the employees of agencies such as Edelman, Ogilvy, McCann and Publicis Groupe and encourage them to help fix the problem by contacting them.
"Dear new Yorkers who work at Ogilvy, you can spot bullsh*t from a block away...But your employer Ogilvy is working for bullsh*tters like the American Petroleum Institute, Petrobras and BP, who are misleading us about climate change," one of the posters read. "It's not your fault. But you can fix it, and we can support you," it added.
Ogilvy declined to respond when approached for a comment.
“With the hundreds of agencies listed here, it's clear that the answer is not just saying to each individual creative, 'Hey, if your employer doesn't align with your values, just get a new job.' Too much of the industry is affected. That's why we have to do the work from the ground up to make these agencies places we can be proud to work for,” said Olivia Macdonald, a copywriter at Cronin which is an agency that signed the Clean Creatives pledge to refuse fossil fuel contracts.
When MARKETING-INTERACTIVE reached out, TBWA said that it could confirm that Geneco, which was listed as a client under TBWA\Singapore has not been a client of the agency since 2019. "The business was awarded to us on a project basis only, and the relationship was limited to that one project, which was completed in 2019," a spokesperson said.
It added that it could also confirm that PTT, which was listed under TBWA\Thailand, worked with the agency on its corporate account. However, the client is no longer on the agency's roster.
"The process to net zero emissions is a journey for all organisations, and the client’s TBWA\Asia partners have made commitments to, and investments in their own respective transformations to a low carbon economy. Just as we are committed to creating ongoing sustainable value and positive change, so too are our clients," said the spokesperson.
She added that as TBWA looks ahead, it will focus on partnering with clients who share the ambition and commitment to meeting the Paris Agreement on climate change.
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