Ad Nut
Aug 24, 2021

Do monkeys dream of electric independence?

AD NUT's RANT OF THE WEEK: An adorable plush toy ditches his batteries and goes on an environmental journey—powered by solar cells—in a global Samsung film through BBH Singapore. But is the message the right one for environmentally concerned consumers?

Take a walk, Energizer Bunny. There's a new cute creature in town, and he's promoting a TV remote that doesn't need your alkaline batteries—because it's powered by light.

Samsung's SolarCell remote, for the brand's Neo QLED TVs, recharges under either natural or indoor light. That, according to the brand, can eliminate 140 million AA batteries and 8,250 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over seven years, based on expected annual global sales of the TVs and assuming normal remotes use two AA batteries a year.

To introduce this innovation, BBH Singapore, along with Blinkink director Adeena Grubb and stop-frame animator Andy Biddle, created a story about a battery-powered monkey who's so impressed with the remote that he daydreams about shedding his batteries and taking off on a solar-powered adventure. The global film debuted in early August.

Ad Nut, who always prefers in-camera work to computer effects, is impressed that the highly adorable fellow is a handcrafted puppet. The facial expressions and the smoothness of the animation are noteworthy and effective too. 

Great work!

Now let's talk about the message. The brand hopes to reach young, environmentally concerned consumers "in order to communicate our efforts in sustainability", according to a release sent to Ad Nut. Omar Sotomayor Noel, creative director at BBH Singapore, adds that the intent is to "remind people that every action to help adds up, regardless of the size”. 

But does it add up? Would this light-charging technology, if built into more household devices, including toys, be a net benefit to the environment? Such tradeoffs are quite complex to evaluate. In this case, yes, you eliminate some alkaline batteries. But the remote has a rechargeable battery of some kind. And manufacturing that battery has its own impacts, which may or may not be better than manufacturing the AAs. Moreover, disposal of alkaline batteries is not a major environmental problem (not since mercury was removed from them decades ago), whereas other types of batteries, such as lithium-ion cells, can be quite damaging if people fail to dispose of them properly. And even when people do dispose of them properly, the recycling process has its own environmental impacts that have to be factored into the equation.

Samsung hasn't shown all its calculations, and Ad Nut doesn't know how that equation would balance, but suffice to say Ad Nut is not yet convinced how 'green' the remote actually is.

Even if it is, would it be enough to convince young consumers about the sincerity of Samsung's sustainability commitment? Ad Nut doubts it.

In fact, the ad might backfire because the activities the monkey takes part in on his journey (recycling, cleaning up a plastic-littered beach) reinforce the idea that individuals bear most responsiblity for solving the world's climate and pollution crisis. And this message, in Ad Nut opinion, is becoming a potentially toxic one for brands.

Young people know that large corporations have always been the largest polluters. They know that many companies strongarm governments into allowing them to continue in their destructive ways while they greenwash (or 'greenspritz') their reputations using media spend. They know how dire the climate situation is. And they know that individual actions—and small things like light-powered remotes—aren't going to bring the world back from the precipice. They're tired of being told over and over that they need to do more while their world floods and bakes and burns.

Communication strategies that fail to address these realities directly will increasingly risk backlash. No matter how cute the monkey is.


Agency: BBH Singapore
Chief Creative Officer: Sascha Kuntze
Creative Directors: Omar Sotomayor & Mae Ong
Creative Team: Audrey Chia & Grace Wong
Group Growth Officer, Asia: Megan Morrell
Account Director: Ausborn Lim
Account Manager: Clinton Cheong
Chief Strategic Officer: Jacob Wright
Planning Director: Tom Hargreaves
Agency Producer: Kim Lim

Production Company: Blinkink Animation Studio, London
Directors: Adeena Grubb & Andy Biddle
Audio House: Fuse Adventures in Audio, Singapore

Client: Samsung, Visual Display
Head of IMC Part, Visual Display Marketing Group: Hyun Min Chun
Principal Professional of Visual Display Marketing Group: Sunmi Kim
Profesional: Gaeun Lee
Senior Professional: Sunny Yang

Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.


Campaign Asia

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