Green campaigns trigger an out of body experience for me. I see the wilderness images, I hear the poetry of responsibility, and I timewarp through the future and the past. When I return to the here and now, I'm left marveling at how little times change, but hoping that this time change will stick.
The future flash takes me ten years ahead, watching the snark-meisters on VH1's “I Love the 2000s” riff on how weird that manic marketing moment was when every industrialist became an overnight environmentalist. One of the wags will crack: “So the CEO went to bed eager to bleed the Earth of its rich resources, but when he woke up he realized he had to HUG the Earth, THEN bleed it of its resources.”
That's the cynic in me getting out-of-body. Then the historian takes over, gliding back to the ‘60s. A band of outsiders tries to change the world through peace, love, and environmentalism. The marketers catch wind of it, and we get the Summer of Love and associated merchandising. Soon, we get Richard Nixon. He gives us the EPA before imploding – still, it's hard not to be disappointed.
I travel further back, to 1941. Now I'm in a country shocked into action by an outside threat, surrounded by people eager to do something to help. They give up luxuries and comfortable habits for the good of the cause. They buy war bonds. They come together and make a difference. Soon, they win.
Returning to our age, I wonder if news of melting ice caps and dwindling resources is a kind of Pearl Harbor. Maybe the green campaigns – even the cheap, facile ones – are cousin to the greater calling that rallied the country decades ago. Or does the movement belong to the legacy of the ‘60's corporate co-opters?
We communications pros are in a position to help decide. We can agree to hold a steady line on truth and results in corporate social responsibility. Or we can get together ten years from now and watch the coming generations rake us over the coals.
Billy Warden is an account director at Capstrat ( www.capstrat.com )