A cheeky advertising campaign protests the role of airlines in climate change
Excessive air travel has been one of the battlegrounds of public discourse on climate change, with wasteful behaviors ranging from airlines with almost empty planes during the pandemic to keep their runway slots at Kylie Jenner take a private jet through Los Angeles to avoid traffic. Brandalisma collective of artists and activists, went on the attack with a guerrilla advertising campaign, releasing some 500 satirical advertisements across Europe that castigate the airlines and agencies directly responsible for promoting a mode high carbon lifestyle.
The campaign images and slogans were written by artists and call out specific companies like Dutch airline KLM – which is currently embroiled in litigation on accusations of ‘greenwashing’ adverts that misrepresent the climate impact of air travel – along with Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, Ryanair, EasyJet, SAS Airlines, ITA Airways and Etihad, and industry body Iata . The advertisements have been shown in Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Liège, Lisbon, Rome, Nantes, London, Bristol, Norwich and other European cities, and focus not only on the problem of wasted travel by plane, but also on the advertising that supports them.
Nine different artists lent their talents to the campaign: Hogre, Lindsay Grime, Matt Bonner, Michelle Tylicki, Darren Cullen, Street Market Subverttiser, Soofiya, BWA Design and Roelof Bos. They represent the tip of the iceberg (which is melting) of the artists who centralize the questions of climate change and environmental injustice in their artistic practices.
“Airline and airport advertising is driving up demand for flights and destroying the climate,” said Robbie Gillett of Adfree Cities, a UK-based network of grassroots campaigners against corporate advertising, in a statement. “We urgently need to see the creation of viable and sustainable transport alternatives to flying that guarantee job security for workers currently employed in aviation. In the meantime, a simple measure that the government, at the both local and national, can take is to ban the advertising of polluting products – to the benefit of people’s health, air quality and the climate.
At first glance, the posters may look like typical airline advertisements. But closer examination reveals cheeky phrases such as “Create a less sustainable future” in a fake billboard for KLM and “Low Fares to Plastic Island” in one for “Ruinair”, a play on the airline. Ryanair. A fake advert for Lufthansa showed a plane passenger reading a brochure featuring trees as a fire burned outside the plane’s window. The hashtag “#SayYesToTheEndOfTheWorld” is followed by the text “At Lufthansa we entertain you with pictures of trees while we fry the planet”.
It stands to reason that airlines – or indeed any other company – invest millions in ambitious advertising campaigns because they drive consumer behavior. But the ethics of promoting high-carbon lifestyles are increasingly being questioned, as a report published by Greenpeace earlier this year estimated that in 2019, global airline advertising could be responsible for “influenced” emissions of up to 34 MtCO2 – the equivalent of burning 17 million tonnes of coal, or roughly the annual emissions of all of Denmark in 2017. Another Greenpeace report suggests that airline and car advertising in 2019 caused the equivalent of twice Spain’s annual emissions that year.
“By pushing high-carbon goods, such as cheap flights, advertising is complicit in rising carbon emissions at a time when we need to see an urgent reversal,” said New Weather co-director Andrew Simms. Institute. “Just as cigarette ads were finally suppressed from the 1980s, governments and regulators must step in to stop these companies from polluting the planet and public space.”