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from UK vol. 47 2009.08.31 Making communications "green" ? A visit to green agencies in London

Advertising has been the symbol of a society characterized by mass production and mass consumption. However, communication focused on social or environmental issues such as CSR activities have become more and more common nowadays. In the US and Europe, agencies specialized in such ecology-focused communication have emerged as “green agencies” and are creating quite a stir. The scope of business varies depending on the agency. There are agencies that only focus on advertising and public relations, while some agencies get in deeper, getting involved with company business to help them become greener. In this report we would like to introduce 4 leading green agencies in London.

Back to Table of Contents DEMOS

DEMOS upholds the slogan, "building everyday democracy." This think-tank, which focuses on policies and politics, aspires to realize a liberal and powerful civil society. DEMOS undertakes various activities to empower people, to enable them to build a better society with their own hands. It was Mr. Jonathan Birdwell, a researcher, and research director, Ms. Julia Margo who described DEMOS to us in detailed.

About 20 people and 8 to 9 interns currently work in the DEMOS London office. Each member has a different background, i.e. consultant, academic researcher, advertising creative. The business scope extends from media, public relations, project planning to consultation. Although each member has a unique set of skills, because they have developed training programs to hone their skills, all of the members also has expert knowledge of research, analysis, and media. That is why they can respond to all kinds of tasks.

DEMOS undertakes several types of projects, but they are all conducted in partnership with companies and governments.

The first type of project is undertaken as a think tank. DEMOS conducts research and analysis for decision and policy-making for their clients (companies/governments). However, because DEMOS aspires to "create a better society," it conducts research that benefits people and society based on partnerships rather than pursuing the interests of a specific client. Clients utilize the findings from such research for decision-making, formulating and improving policies, publicity activities, and for strengthening the network. These types of projects only account for a fraction of DEMOS' entire business.

The second type of projects is the "partnership program." This involves companies and organizations coming together and forming partnerships for specific projects. For example, with the "Let's Think About Civil Rights" program, participants including citizen panelists exchanged their opinions about the issue. By participating in these programs, companies and organizations may deepen their understanding, allowing them to utilize their findings for decision-making or policymaking.

The third type involves projects launched by DEMOS. DEMOS then recruits companies that will help support the project. DEMOS is a think tank with a mission to "change society," so this is the key area it focuses on. Each project is carried out over an 8 to 12-month span with the cooperation of investment banks and large distributors. It is difficult to obtain on-going support for these projects because sometimes participating companies and organizations find it hard to realize what the direct benefits are. But DEMOS is working hard to help create an ideal society by conducting promotional activities and by augmenting awareness.


All of DEMOS' projects, which aim to create a sound society, have one or many of the following 4 themes:

  1. independence
    Examining the relationship between individuals and governments to promote.
  2. security
    Exploring the role of individuals in society to promote domestic and international.
  3. capabilities
    Promoting the betterment of society and environment to uplift personal and material capacity.
  4. citizenship
    Promoting active participation of individuals who are part of society and decision-making.

As an example of their work on "security," let us introduce a program presented to the government last year that examines security under potential threats such as terrorism and disaster. Hearings, researches, and reviews were conducted for the entire process of the existing security system in order to draft scenarios for each crisis, and plans for a security system capable of promptly responding to a state of emergency such as terrorism. The findings were reported to the government at seminars and conferences, and DEMOS also submitted recommendations for ways in which the system may be improved.

DEMOS also conducts research on corporate social activities and provide relevant feedback, studies on various social issues (e.g. crime and alcohol abuse) in the UK to make recommendations to each company about how they could help deal with such issues and what they must do to fulfill their social responsibilities. As you can see, DEMOS forms partnerships with various companies and organizations to think of ways in which a better society may be created.

DEMOS has developed strong ties with a great number of companies and foundations throughout its 20-year history, and it is these long lasting relationships that have brought these projects to fruition.

Back to Table of Contents Clownfish

The first thing that caught our attention when we visited the Clownfish office was the shopping bags made in collaboration with Cath Kidston, an interior and accessories brand also quite popular in Japan, and TESCO (UK-based large supermarket chain). You may already know about these bags since they have received major media exposure in Japan and other parts of the world. Ms. Diana Verde Nieto, the CEO of Clownfish, gave us a description of Clownfish and its activities.


These much talked about bags were not created just so that they would look cool. In addition to the environmental benefit they offer by helping reduce the use of single-use plastic bags, with these bags, Clownfish also aims to realize people's well being or a state in which one is healthy and filled with happiness. Reducing environmental impact has been taken into consideration at every stage of their lifecycle, from procurement of raw materials to distribution and marketing communication. Six plastic bottles are recycled as raw materials, and the production process requires less sewing. Also, soy ink is used for printing, and the supply chain has been shortened as much as possible. Clownfish proposed the best method available in all areas including finding an appropriate company that handles recycle plastic bottles, appropriate sewing plants, as well as a distribution methods that minimizes waste. When you no longer need the bag, you can return it to TESCO, so that it can be recycled as new fabric. With regard to social contribution, 100% of the proceeds from the sales of these bags are donated to a breast cancer charity with the help of Marie Claire magazine. By purchasing these bags, users naturally help support the charity. Clownfish believes that helping people feel that they are "doing some good" is important because that is also part of one's "well being." On the practical side, these bags are designed to be durable, yet lightweight and also washable. What's more, they are also very economical ? they only cost 3.50 pounds. In sum, these bags have been produced by carefully taking every aspect into consideration.


"As you can see, Clownfish considers social, environmental, and economical aspects because sustainability cannot be realized if one of these is lacking. Sustainability is not achieved by simply making donations," says Ms. Nieto.

Approximately 30 people with varying backgrounds such as in environmental technology, environmental design, and marketing communication are working at the Clownfish London office. Currently, it is expanding its reach to other parts of the world including NY and Shanghai.

As the example of the shopping bag indicates, Clownfish offers a wide range of recommendations to its clients as a sustainability communications consultancy. With the shopping bag project, Clownfish succeeded in bringing together TESCO, Marie Claire magazine, Cath Kidston, factories, society, and people. Clownfish also works with other clients such as Unilever, Nike, and Coca-cola providing expertise on developing sustainability.

Clownfish places importance on 3 key words - People, Planet, and Profit. They recommend values for bringing sustainability to life on all levels, from strategy through to communication; i.e. meeting consumer needs, motivating employees, enhancing brand value and the bottom line to cost reduction.

Back to Table of Contents CURB

We spoke with Mr. Anthony Ganjou, the founder of CURB, and learned about their activities. CURB is a "natural media company" that uses earth's natural elements (sun's rays, sand, soil, water, etc.) to develop effective advertising with the lowest environmental impact. CURB aspires to offer clients with outstanding "natural" marketing that leaves a great impression without causing damage to the environment. The company was established in September 2008, so it has been up and running for less than a year, but CURB's high-quality work has a great international reputation. Their activities have been published in magazines in Korea and Japan and has also been reported on by the BBC.


CURB offers various natural media solutions. Please go to their website and have a look at some of the work they have worked on.

Clean Advertising
They place stencils on the wall and remove the dirt from parts of the wall to create a design that uses the contrast between the dirty surface and the newly cleaned original color. The dirt is removed using stored rainwater.

Logrow (grass)
Creating a brand logo using grass.

Sand Sculpture (sand)
Buckingham Palace built and carved out of sand was so intricately finished that the human sand statues inside the palace seemed as though they would start moving. It seems this also impressed Queen Elizabeth.

Snow Tagging (snow)
The method used was quite simple, yet innovative. Imprints were made using a stamp. The snow tagging campaign for an extreme sports channel was held during the snowstorm in February. This generated publicity worth over 50 million yen in advertising value.

Solar Art (sunlight)
The artists burned an image into a piece of wood using magnifying glasses and the rays of the sun to create an incredibly intricate visual image.

H2 Show (water)
A computer controls the amount of waterfall to depict text and imagery with water.

Crop Ad
CURB created a mystery circle like advertising in a large field. Some of these ads measured 120m in diameter (e.g. enormous Hello Kitty). "In the future, we would like to make a really big one, so that you can only see the whole image from a satellite." says Mr. Ganjou.

All the work has been created in collaboration with top artists. But, why have they chosen and stuck with earth's natural elements? According to Mr. Ganjou, their work is based on a simple idea - with green marketing and environmental communication, the media, which conveys the messages, should also be natural. If plants are used as a medium, you can preserve it, and with snow or water, they will just return to nature. Moreover, the use of natural elements leaves a great impact - people take photos of the work and send them to their friends and it becomes well known quite quickly by word of mouth. The sheer quality of their work often leads to great exposure in magazines. The team at CURB believes that what they do is great for both the environment and for the clients.

Back to Table of Contents BASH

BASH is located in the Shaw Ridge area in London. This area is home to young artists, museums, and creative boutiques. BASH is a creative agency and event production company. They advocate ethical creativity and ecological entertainment and introduce ecological methods to the British entertainment industry. The interview was conducted in the garden created as part of the "roof project" developed on the roof of the BASH office building.


The team at BASH goes up to the roof to take a break from their work and enjoy a relaxing time. Occasionally they have a beer or two on the roof surrounded by greenery. They throw small parties and sometimes live events. We learned about BASH from Mr. Daniel Silver, Creative Director, and Ms. Erica Sara Probst, Director of Operations, in a very relaxing atmosphere.


BASH was formed 3 years ago by Mr. Joseph Oliver. Mr. Oliver, who has been selected as one of the leaders of the "London Leaders" program, has been integrating sustainability in London by persuading the media in cooperation with cultural, political, and governmental leaders. BASH is the first organization in the UK that undertakes activities in partnership with the cultural sector (libraries, museums and archives). Clients, participants, and members of BASH include artists, fashion designers, musicians, and students and they also work with companies, NGOs, and government institutions. BASH boasts both artistic and environmental expertise and attempts to form a bridge between the world of art and environment.

BASH is also known for the sustainability network it has created in London. BASH helps create an environment in which people can think about sustainability, and they also brings artists and companies together to realize sustainability.

For example, BASH runs events and campaigns particularly targeting the younger generation (between 16 to early 30s) to help sustainable culture take root.

BASH recommends and implements effective projects in the following 3 areas, or by combining these 3 elements.

  1. Events
    BASH holds eco-conscious events with a various focus and scale. They may be a very accessible, casual events or quite serious, and may range from small-scale conferences to international corporate conferences.
  2. Marketing
    BASH offers its clients various sustainable and eco-conscious solutions, from product design to more traditional advertising such as newspapers and TV ads.
  3. Consulting
    As a sustainability consultancy, BASH offers advice and assistance for implementing green communications and eco-conscious business practices.

In addition, BASH is in charge of the operations of the building in which its office is located. So they also run and produce the club on the first floor (called Black Lotus Karate Club) that offers organic food and drinks.

They described one of the projects to us in detail. "We are in charge of the operation and management of the 'Radical Nature' exhibition, which is currently being held at the Barbican Center (Europe's largest multi-arts and conference venue located in London).
First, to promote the exhibition, we asked 50 dancers and pantomime artists to wear tree costumes designed by a young artist. These 50 "trees" paraded through central London. They stood alone as trees at times, or together forming forest. Since we started at 8:30am in the world's largest financial center, this parade created quite a commotion among the commuters. We carefully planned the best route (which included populous locations such as St Paul's and Piccadilly Circus) and times. Photos and videos of the parade were uploaded onto the website in real time. This created quite a stir and gave way to debate about trees and nature in London on online discussion forums. Around 6:00pm, when the exhibition was coming to an end, renowned curators of the Barbican gave a presentation on the environment and the project. Although this project was held to promote the exhibition, it also provided an opportunity for people to think about environmental issues.

Rather than simply offering eco-conscious advertising methods and encouraging the use of eco products, we also strive to raise awareness for the environment so that people will start thinking about environmental issues as an individual. To this end, we also effectively use SNS (social networking service) as a way to create social momentum."

By the way, the "roof project" launched by BASH had another mission. It serves as a test bed for a green roof that is being contemplated for the media center for the London 2012 Olympics Games. This test bed will help with scientific observation of the interaction between compost (PAS100) and materials as well as the impact such interaction may have on plants.


Back to Table of Contents Appendix

Social communication in other parts of the world @Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival


The 56th Cannes Lions International Advertising Festivals was held from June 21 to 27, 2009. We would like to introduce some high profile, social and environmental campaigns we discovered at the festival.


"Trillion Dollar Campaign" - the name of the campaign is really intriguing and stirs your curiosity. But then, when you look at the campaign poster, you are blown away by the hundreds and thousands of Zimbabwean currency that make up the poster. The advertiser of this campaign was The Zimbabwean newspaper. The journalists of The Zimbabwean were exiled for reporting on how the Mugabe regime had rigged the elections, crushed the opposition, and was responsible for poverty, disease, and the total collapse of the economy. In addition, the Mugabe regime imposed a 55% luxury import duty on this newspaper (as though implying that freedom of speech can only be bought at a very high price). Financial funding was necessary in order to get the paper into the hands of the Zimbabwean people, so the newspaper needed to raise its awareness outside of the country. That is why this campaign was implemented.
The campaign received media coverage only a few hours after its launch, was introduced nationwide via TV and radio after only 2 days, and became widely known around the world via the Internet. It was introduced in hundreds of websites and blogs including the website for the New York Times, Yahoo News, and the Huffington Post.
The 1 trillion Zimbabwe dollar bills, which came about as a result of the world's highest rate of inflation, is a symbol of the country's collapse. A trillion dollars bill isn't even enough to pay for a loaf of bread, let alone advertising. So, why not use those trillion dollars bills as a medium? This is the concept underlying this campaign.
We had a chance to talk to the creative director at the awards ceremony. We asked him if it didn't occur to him that he could get arrested. He said, "Of course, we were aware of such risks. That is why we only did these guerilla campaigns for 4 days. But we successfully gained public support, and this kept the government at bay."


The Red Cross campaign held during the Christmas season in 2008 saw the development of a completely new structure of donation giving. A shop was opened in the most popular shopping mall in Lisbon. But in this store, you couldn't touch or see the products, try them on, or even listen to them. The only thing you could do there is to "feel." The product that this retail store was selling was "HOPE." Just like any other store, this shop had hangers, windows, fitting rooms, and bags; the only difference was that people walked out empty handed. Rather than buying something, people who came to the store donated their money, and this filled their hearts with hope.
The timing at which the campaign was conducted was quite miraculous. It was just when the world craved for hope stronger than ever. Store sales on the opening day reached top 10 amongst other stores in the shopping mall. This campaign also saw an increase in the number of volunteers, people who donated for the first time, and potential Red Cross partners.

YUBARI (Japan)

Many of you in Japan may have heard about the promotional campaign for Yubari City in the news. Burdened with heavy debt, the city declared bankruptcy in 2007. But this campaign zoomed in on the fact that Yubari boasted the lowest divorce rate in Japan. So the campaign, "Yubari, no money but love," was developed based on the idea that Yubari may not have money, but it had a lot of love. They developed the characters featuring Yubari melons called "Yubari Fusai" (the word "fusai" may refer to "debt" or "married couple" depending on the Japanese characters used). A "happy couple zone" was created within the city hall, and married couples that visited this zone received an "official happily married couple certificate." In addition, an original song for the characters, and many branded merchandise and souvenirs were sold, and they were also featured on various magazines. The campaign got a great deal of exposure - mention in 100 newspapers, 100 online media, 30 TV programs, and 53,100 blog entries. Since this project was launched, the annual number of visitors to Yubari increased by 10% year on year. But most importantly, through this campaign the citizens of Yubari got back a sense of pride in their city.


This campaign aimed to raise public awareness for the gender inequality suffered by women in Lebanon. In Arabic, the words address either men or women depending on how you pronounce the words or where you place the accent. "Kasra" refers to the accent, which is used for words when addressing a woman.
The campaign attempts to demonstrate "how people in the Lebanese society (regardless of gender) automatically address men when speaking Arabic." Posters and billboards demonstrated how the meaning changed when the words were spoken using the kasra accent (marked with a red line). The campaign also became widespread through the digital media - YouTube, Facebook, and email. On March 8, 2009, on International Women's Day, TV personalities in various programs wore the kasra badge. This campaign, which encouraged women to "wear your mark" and demonstrated that "a small step can change the world," enjoyed substantial newspaper and magazine coverage, while sparking debate about the Lebanese judicial system, which is currently disadvantageous for women (for example, Lebanese women lose custody of their children who are older than 9 in any divorce case, and domestic violence against women is still quite commonplace).

LET IT RING... (Belgium)

In Belgium, more and more accidents occur as a result of people talking on the mobile phone while driving. The danger of driving while talking on the phone would best ring home if people could virtually experience the danger. This campaign made this happen. First of all, you enter the email address and mobile phone number of a friend you wish to give the experience to on the campaign's website. Then, your friend receives an email of a link from you. When your friend clicks on the link, what looks like an ordinary Internet video created from the driver's viewpoint starts to play. As the friend watches the video, his/her mobile phone suddenly starts ringing. If your friend, who doesn't know what's going on, picks up the phone, he/she causes an accident in the virtual movie (the accident won't occur if he/she doesn't answer the phone). The image they will see when they cause an accident is quite shocking. The main purpose of this campaign is to make people remember one key message - "Let the phone ring."

There were a great many more excellent nominations that zoomed in on social communication (like last year, organizations such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and UNICEF won several awards). An exhibition featuring social graphic advertising was held at the foyer of the venue and the hall next-door while the poster of "Hopenhagen," a campaign created by the International Advertising Association (IAA) and a coalition of the world's leading agencies for the COP15 scheduled to be held in Copenhagen in December this year, was exhibited on the billboard in front of the venue. We definitely felt as though the tides of time are changing the direction in which the advertising industry is heading towards.


Koji Kagoshima Biography
Born in Niigata in 1968. Graduated with a degree in Master's Program in Education, from University of Tsukuba. Working as a copywriter and creative director at an advertising company and the NGO, 2025 PROJECT. Coauthor of "Missing Peace", "Love, Peace & Green; Missing Peace 2", "ecotoba," and "It will be fine."

Yoko Okazaki Biography
Born in Hiroshima in 1980. Graduated with a degree in Law, from the Faculty of Law, Sophia University after studying abroad in Finland and Hawaii. Currently, working as a copywriter and planner in an advertising company and the NGO, 2025 PROJECT. Coauthor of "It will be fine."

Outline of 2025PROJECT
2025 PROJECT is an NGO engaged in activities that attempt to help create a sustainable society by 2025. 2025 PROJECT continues to create content with an aim to change the world and the future. Its "Tigers Save Tigers!" campaign was nominated for the PR category this year at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Reported and orginal Japanese text written by: Koji Kagoshima and Yoko Okazaki (2025 PROJECT)
Translated by: Yuri Morikawa (oxygen inc.)
Photographs by Koji Kagoshima, Izumi Kondoh
Cooperation from:
Kunihiko Inoue (ROBOT)
Wakyo Production / Wakyo Green
Mick Nakamura (WAKYO Production)
Moto Yoshida (WAKYO Production)



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