Meat, air travel ads may get major pollutant warning texts
The advertising industry wants to add a “borrowing money costs money”-like warning on ads for meat and air travel. They hope to get ahead of a ban on advertisements for polluting products, often referred to as “fossil advertisements,” Trouw reports.
The Association for Advertisers (BvA), which represents Shell, KLM, Schiphol, Albert Heijn, and Jumbo, is against a fossil advertisement ban. Instead, it suggested other measures, including adding warnings in advertisements for climate-damaging products and services.
Advertisers would also focus more on ads that encourage sustainable choices. And the Advertising Code Commission, a self-regulating body for the advertising world, will work on stricter guidelines to prevent greenwashing in ads.
Over the past two years, several large cities in the Netherlands have passed motions to ban fossil ads in public spaces. The Haarlem city council recently decided to ban meat advertisements, the first municipality in the world to do so.
Action group Reclame Fossielvrij, which has been campaigning for a national ban on fossil advertising, is not impressed by the BvA’s proposals. “The industry always does this when the call for a ban becomes too loud,” said spokesperson Femke Sleegers. According to her, the BvA is trying to postpone the ban like the tobacco industry did. “In 1979, the tobacco industry negotiated self-regulation with the Advertising Code Commission. That was allowed, and the result was that in 1986 there was more tobacco advertising than ever before. It wasn’t until 16 years later that there was a ban.”
With the climate crisis, the Netherlands does not have time to experiment again with letting polluting companies regulate themselves, Sleegers said. “The government can take a simple step, namely banning fossil advertising.”
Willemijn van Dolen, a marketing professor at the University of Amsterdam, doubts whether the warnings would have any effect. She pointed out that the “borrowing money costs money” campaign that the BvA is using as an example proved to have little impact, according to a 2016 study by the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets.
Van Dolen also worries that these measures would cause more contradictory messages in the advertising landscape, with air travel ads, on the one hand, stimulating the need to explore the world and, on the other hand, warning people not to do it. “You may wonder how beneficial this is for society,” she said to the newspaper.
Climate Minister Rob Jetten told Trouw that he is pleased the business community is taking initiative. “It is important to make people aware of the impact of their choices on the climate,” Jetten said. “I, therefore, welcome the sector’s idea of pointing out sustainable products to consumers and enticing them to opt for a climate-friendly alternative.”