In 2024, Expect Tensions to Rise With Global Temperatures


Heading into 2024, adland is more aware than ever of its climate responsibility. The question that it must answer is where the scope of that responsibility ends. This year will be defined, in large part, by how advertisers and agencies choose to answer that question.

Some argue that agencies must cut ties with clients in high-emissions categories like fossil fuels, choosing instead to promote only low-carbon products and consumption habits. On the other hand, industry leaders insist that agencies and brands can work together toward a lower-carbon future without jeopardizing long-standing relationships with lucrative, if historically climate-harming, industries.

Underlying this discussion is a universal acknowledgment that the tools of advertising hold great power—and that power can be used to either drum up support for efforts to slow climate change or cling to the status quo. Within that conversation lies a tension that’s poised to bubble over. Young talent, regulatory action and activism are all turning up the heat this year.

Young talent demands action

While it’s become common knowledge that younger people are more aware of the climate crisis, the impact that early career talent will have on agencies and brands is only beginning to be seen—and will likely become more evident throughout 2024 and beyond.

“Talent don’t want to work on fossil fuel,” Solitaire Townsend, co-founder and chief solutionist at climate-focused agency Futerra, told Adweek. “They want it written into employment contracts. Not that they can pick which clients they work on, [but] that they don’t have to work on fossil fuel.”

It’s not purpose marketing. It’s not sustainability marketing. It’s behavior change.

Solitaire Townsend, co-founder and chief solutionist for Futerra

Given that climate science demands a swift transition away from fossil fuels, and that the younger generations are well aware of the fact, Townsend argued that agency leaders working for Big Oil need to get realistic about the future of their businesses.

“How are you building up the parts of your business that you think are going to be the growth areas over the next 20 years in order to dial down the others,” Townsend asked, “rather than waiting for outside forces to make you do it?”

Climate awareness must become climate action

Activists like Clean Creatives and Extinction Rebellion, climate-focused ad networks like Purpose Disruptors, and platforms like Creatives for Climate—alongside sustainability-minded marketers all across the industry—have successfully brought more urgency to the ad industry’s climate movement. And while agencies certainly have a major role to play, clients often set the agenda.

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