World Environment Day: How Brands Can Elevate Environmental Advertising

Every year on June 5th, the United Nations champions World Environment Day, a global event aimed at raising awareness and prompting action to protect our environment. This year’s theme is “Our Land. Our Future. We are #GenerationRestoration,” focusing on land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience. While World Environment Day is a crucial reminder, the UN encourages year-round action. Brands have a significant role to play in this endeavor, not only by taking steps themselves but also by inspiring consumers.  

Yet the state of environmental advertising is worrisome. Our analysis of the last three years of advertising in the US and UK found that just 3% of ads and 8%, respectively, contain any type of environmental messaging. And when sustainability is a theme, these ads don’t perform any better than the average ad in these regions. There are two issues at play here: advertisers aren’t promoting sustainability efforts and solutions as often as they should, and when they do, they’re not effectively connecting with audiences.  

That’s why we published our Greenprint UK and USA in partnership with behavioral science expert Richard Shotton and ITV. If we want consumers to act and prioritize sustainability, brands need to step up, show them how it’s done and do so in a way that inspires and entertains. The Greenprint is your blueprint for creating stronger environmental advertising that resonates and drives change. 

Here are three powerful recommendations from these reports:  

Prioritize Hope Over Fear

In a media landscape filled with images of the devastating impacts of climate change, from melting ice caps to rampant wildfires, it’s easy for consumers to feel overwhelmed and powerless. However, advertisers can flip the narrative by emphasizing hope and positivity. By showcasing the beauty and resilience of our planet, brands can inspire consumers with messages of possibility and progress.

For example, oat milk manufacturer Planet Oat’s “Planet Oat Project” does just that. By featuring hopeful images of wildlife and natural landscapes, they effectively communicate their commitment to environmental organizations, reinforcing the message that positive change is both achievable and ongoing. 

Be Action Oriented

To encourage meaningful behavior change, advertisements should go beyond mere messaging and actively demonstrate environmentally friendly actions. This approach not only informs but also empowers viewers by showing practical, achievable steps they can take. Highlighting real people engaging in sustainable activities, such as tree planting or reducing plastic use, makes these behaviors feel accessible and impactful. A great example is Corona’s “Protect Our Beaches” campaign, which depicts volunteers cleaning up plastic waste from beaches. By visualizing the collective effort, Corona not only raises awareness but also motivates viewers to participate in preserving our oceans.  

Entertain, Entertain, Entertain

It’s so essential, we think it’s worth repeating! Entertaining content is memorable content, and when it comes to environmental messaging, making people laugh or feel joy can significantly enhance the impact. By incorporating humor, cultural references, and engaging narratives, brands can capture and maintain audience attention while conveying important messages.  

An excellent example of entertainment in an ad is Jeep’s “Electric Boogie”. From a catchy tune to dancing animals, and the added excitement of cars off-roading, this ad successfully maintains the attention of viewers. This approach ensures that the message sticks with viewers long after the ad has ended, fostering a deeper connection and understanding.

By instilling hope, demonstrating actionable behaviors, and ensuring that their messages are entertaining, brands can effectively use their platforms to support environmental sustainability and inspire their audiences to join the effort. On this World Environment Day and beyond, let’s aim to create advertisements that not only capture attention but also drive meaningful change.