Jamie Kolkot
Jan 22, 2024

'It's only greenwashing if you get caught'

New agency Atmospheric is throwing its hat into the ring for the highly-coveted Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest fossil fuel account. If they win, their no-nonsense CEO has an advertising plan as transparent as a slick oil spill.

Photo: Shutterstock/altered with AI
Photo: Shutterstock/altered with AI

Recently, my agency Atmospheric, decided to pitch for the oil giant Saudi Aramco. We’re up against McCann, who, despite controversy, is apparently repitching for the account. 

Saudi Aramco is the biggest fossil fuel producer in the world. 

And they're showing no signs of stopping—in fact, they're planning to dig up one million extra barrels of oil by 2025.

We believe the only thing worse than promoting a product that threatens the survival of life on earth is doing it dishonestly.

And to be honest, fossil fuel companies are good money. They pay the bills, put food on the table, and provide for our multinational holding companies who need to ensure at least 3% growth year-on-year.

The ad industry must learn from the mistakes of its past. When the industry ditched tobacco we lost iconic characters, like the Marlboro cowboy man. With big oil, we have just as much to lose. Just take a look at our Christmas campaign Carter the Cockroach, our Carbon Neutral tyre fire, or the award-winning Badger Bungalows?

The totally new ad agency Atmospheric took the pledge to be 'Activist Free'.

Of course, if we win the account, this isn't the story our advertising campaigns will tell. We will instead be loudly shouting about Aramco's just and fairly paced transition to renewables, and our deep concern for the planet.

A lie, but a profitable one.

These stories of positive change have the potential to quiet public outrage and help preserve business as usual.

But that’s not the only good thing about it!

If a brand can trick consumers into thinking its products have a positive impact, it can drive sales and bring them fame and fortune.

Eco-nerds call it "greenwashing."

But greenwashing is just one of many useful tools in the advertiser's toolbox.

And remember, it’s only greenwashing if you get caught.

Although many agencies now have “strict” policies against greenwashing, it’s actually pretty simple to get around them. As long as the claim the work makes is vaguely credible, it’s good to go.

That means the fossil fuel big boys are free to make token investments in renewables, while expanding their oil and gas operations.

Stick a wind turbine on the ad, and you’re in business.

‘Green’ business! That’s the genius of greenwashing.

Another way to avoid detection is by diversifying your greenwashing. Add greenlighting, greenhushing, greenrinsing, and greenshifting to that creative toolbelt.

With these tools, you can help your clients build a veneer of morality.

A delicate veneer that crumbles into gold on close examination.

And who doesn’t love gold?

Atmospheric launched in 2023 with this OOH in London

Jamie Kolkot is the totally real CEO of the totally spoof real agency Atmospheric. The agency boasts its own websiteLinkedIn page and a mission statement to give clients “the social license they need to Keep the Fire Burning™.”

Background: Atmospheric is an agency known for its audacious approach to advertising. It aims to disrupt the status quo and inject a fresh perspective into the industry.

Founded by the climate collective Glimpse alongside a team of advertising mavericks, including satirist and musician Oli Frost and the climate communications lab, Utopia Bureau, Atmospheric announced itself with a billboard ad in central London that states: “The climate is changing. Business shouldn’t have to.”

The spoof agency has gained a reputation for pushing boundaries and leaving a lasting impact with its audacious collaborations and parody campaigns. It's taken the helm of McCann's repitching campaign for the high-stakes Aramco account, and its unorthodox methods with tongue-in-cheek campaigns have garnered attention and sparked dialogue within the marketing community.

Campaign Asia

Related Articles

Just Published

2 days ago

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on using AI to win over ...

The e-commerce giant’s CEO revealed fresh insights into the company's future plans on all things consumer behaviour, AI, Amazon Ads and Prime Video.

2 days ago

James Hawkins steps down as PHD APAC CEO

Hawkins leaves PHD after close to six years leading the agency, and there will be no immediate replacement for him.

2 days ago

Formula 1 Shanghai: A watershed event for brand ...

With Shanghai native Zhou Guanyu in the race, this could be the kickoff to even more fierce positioning among Chinese brands.

2 days ago

Whalar Group appoints Neil Waller and James Street ...

EXCLUSIVE: The duo will lead six business pillars and attempt to win more creative, not just creator, briefs with the hire of Christoph Becker as chief creative officer.