This blog was originally posted on Identity Campaigning.

A couple of weeks ago a new ad started being shown on television in the UK highlighting the need to act on CO2. In the light of how many of the posts here touch on advertising, I would be interested in identity campaigners’ views on it. It’s at the bottom of DECC's homepage. It’s had a number of complaints, some for it being scary, but most from people disagreeing with the science. Well for me the science is pretty much certain, and it’s much scarier than this ad. However I do have deep problems with this ad. It was summed up by someone commenting online as ‘turn off your lights or you’ll drown your children’. But where is the awareness of identity in this ad? Will anyone really change their behaviour with this approach?

It’s a classic double bind for the well meaning people behind this. They have to get the message out there but are caught into a single focus of climate change, and even narrower, reducing CO2 emissions. Reducing emissions related to lighting and heating houses could be viewed as one of the lesser problems we face, a lot could be done with a proper government insulation programme and rolling out these promised smart meters. What about the impact of consumption? Isn’t this easier to change? A decision simply not to buy something you don’t really need is easier to make than asking for people to cut back on things they view as essential.

But of course you will never see a government-led ad focusing on reducing consumption, especially not while we are in a recession and tied to growth as the magic bullet to slay all evil. And although an ad along similar lines (think the bedtime story mixed with the Story of Stuff) would be better, it’s going to be very unlikely to happen. The best and more positive approach would be to promote the type of lifestyle and identity that relates to pro-environmental behaviours. Get outside, buy local, slow food, time with family and friends, community: quality of life. Do some of these things and your children will start thanking you today as well as when they are too old for bedtime stories.