What do exploding school children, birthday cards and Sunday lunch all have in common? The connecting factor to this peculiar triptych is in fact the environmental organisation 10:10 who have had a rather traumatic week, when they least would have liked, right before their pièce de résistance: the 10th of the 10th 2010 (10:10:10).
10:10:10 had been heralded by the charity as the biggest ever day of positive action on climate change around the world: from sumo wrestlers cycling in Japan to hundreds of people in the UK sitting down to low-carbon Sunday lunches. This, they said, would be an inspirational day.
That was until they put the British populace off their Sunday lunches with an advertisement featuring two school children exploding in a bloody mess.
The advertisement launched with a lot of coverage and was meant to be a hilarious look at climate change. It was directed by Richard Curtis of ‘Love Actually’ fame (arguably is his first bloody mess). It featured celebrities such as Gillian ‘Scully’ Anderson and David ‘Shampoo’ Ginola.
But what no-one was prepared for was the misguided, misplaced and misbalanced message. For those who don’t know the advert featured rather gory explosions more typical of a Bruce Campbell movie than an environmental campaign. The victims of these B-movie explosions were characters portrayed as climate change deniers or unwilling to change for climate.
Needless to say the blogosphere and social media sites quickly went into overload with parents condemning the advert, environmental charities distancing themselves from it and ultimately a full retraction of the advert from the 10:10 website and the issuing of groveling apology.
Although many viewers also focused on the violence of the advert, this really misses the point of the foolish message it was sending that quite simply the climate deniers or contrarians should just be removed from the equation.
The environmental sector has frequently shot itself in the foot with negative, apocalyptic and doom-ridden advertisements and marketing campaign. Let’s not forget the recent drowning cartoon dog from the government. But 10:10 promised us positive messages about climate change. They promised us inspiration. They promised us a big party on Sunday but decided instead to shoot the clown (and pop all his balloons) the day before.
Climate sceptics are an essential part to the debate as while the agenda of many can be questioned, contradictory thinking in all scientific debates drives thinking forward. Working with and communicating with climate contrarians is one of the reasons I have joined the sustainability team within MHP. I want to be involved in scientifically rigorous, positive and intelligent communications for a sustainable future.
So in my first few days at MHP 10:10 have highlighted perfectly why careful thought is needed for all sustainability communication. While the film may have been an unprecedented blunder, the 10:10:10 stamps that have appeared on all my birthday cards this week are in contrast a fantastic piece of work by 10:10 with one of their corporate partners – Royal Mail. So while my faith in the concept of 10:10 took a little hit this week this will not stop me tucking in to my locally sourced, low-carbon Sunday lunch this weekend. I encourage you all to do the same because although their head was in the wrong place, apparently exploded all over the wall, the heart of 10:10 is still in the right place and 10:10:10 should still be a really positive day for all those taking part.