Mount Rushmore half-submerged in the encroaching ocean. The Eiffel Tower surrounded by lush jungle. The Great Wall of China buried in sand. These worst-case scenarios of global climate change were plastered across the walls of Union Station over the last few weeks in Diesel’s latest advertising campaign. Against the background of these climate catastrophes, each image features airbrushed models in Diesel clothing, along with the slogan, “Global Warming Ready.”
The ad campaign, which arrived in Toronto within days of the IPCC’s recent report on climate change and can be viewed on the Diesel website, sends a highly ambiguous message. On the one hand, the ads point out the problem of global warming. On the other hand, all the models seem entirely unconcerned that a substantial portion of the world is in ruins. Instead, they seem to be having a great time, lounging on yachts in half-sunken Manhattan or frolicking with parrots in Venice. Without providing any context, the subtle undertone of these ads is, at worst, that the results of global warming are nothing to worry about, and may even be fun and glamorous.
Diesel’s website makes a half-hearted attempt to convey some sense of the climate problem. An introductory video gives a brief rundown of the issue, and states that global warming is “a bad thing.” Simplistic, perhaps, but at least it’s along the right lines. Elsewhere, Diesel links to stopglobalwarming.org, and plugs Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. In a section called “Global Warming: What Diesel People Can Do,” Diesel encourages us to walk instead of drive, turn off lights, unplug electrical devices that aren’t in use, and so on.
Diesel’s other suggestions, unfortunately, range from flippant to actually counterproductive. “Have sex,” they tell us, to keep warm and cut down on heating bills. And a more egregious piece of misinformation: “Research has shown that flatulent cows give off damaging methane gases when they fart.” Their proposed solution? Eat more steak! But this is precisely the opposite of the actual solution, since eating beef only encourages the farming of cattle, thereby increasing the amount of methane produced and propagating unsustainable farming practices.
It is clear that Diesel is far less concerned with fomenting political activism and lifestyle change than they are with selling their brand. As far as corporate social campaigns go, this attitude is hardly surprising, but Diesel’s campaign is particularly inept, blatantly self-interested, and woefully uninformed.
Corporations truly hoping to promote environmentalism should start by adopting sustainable practices themselves. By doing so they not only help make the world a better place, but often improve their own profitability, as hordes of environmentally-conscious consumers switch to their brands. For example, in 2004 the International Coffee Organization reported two years of increased sales (ranging from seven to 25 per cent) by vendors providing Fair Trade coffee, at a time when average global coffee sales only increased by one to two per cent.
If Diesel is ready to do their part, they should make it clear what measures they are taking to fight global warming. Something as simple as providing more and better information on their website would be a step in the right direction.
But if they are not prepared to be part of the solution, they have no business trivializing the problem.