Can Advertisements Alter Environmental Behavior?

by JP Kiefer

With approximately 40% of the UK’s emissions capable of being linked to actions undertaken by individuals, it is clear that public support is essential to counteracting climate change. The UK attempted to gain this support with its Act on CO2 campaign, but it found that certain advertisements, such as those developed to elicit fear in its audience, were extremely ineffective. Adam Corner (2011) looks at the advertisements of the campaign in an attempt to systematically critique the social marketing approach to engaging the public on climate change.

Social marketing is the systematic application of marketing concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioral goals relevant to the social good. It has been used to target issues like obesity and tobacco products, but never climate change. The first thing Corner noticed when attempting to apply social marketing to climate change is that information-based approaches were ineffective. This is due to the weak link between attitudes and behavior. Information-based ads may have effectively changed the attitudes of their audience towards climate change, but did little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One factor that may make such advertisements less effective is that most other advertisements promote behavior that is not environmentally friendly. While not directly promoting that people should be wasteful with their greenhouse gas emissions, most advertisements promote self-enhancing values like materialism and personal ambition, which do not always go along with values of respecting the environment.

Corner states that no campaign will be successful in changing behavior if the behavior is widely acceptable, but that it is important to begin by targeting specific groups of people rather than the entire population. Advertisements directed towards a specific demographic will be able to strike a chord in an individual better than a general advertisement appealing to everyone. This is partly what makes social networks the most effective way to utilize social marketing. The fact that advertisements are able to target a group of people with common interests and that individuals are seeing the opinions of people who’s opinions they trust and care about makes social networks very powerful. While no research has specifically tested whether social marketing on social networks can influence pro-environmental behavior, evidence about social networks and the diffusion of behavior in general suggests a promising course of action.

Corner, A., Randall, A., 2011. Selling Climate Change? The Limitations of Social Marketing as a Strategy for Climate Change Public Engagement. Global Environmental Change 21, 1005-1014


TAGS: Climate Change, Advertisements, Social Marketing, Targeting, Environmental Behavior, Altering Behavior


TWEET: Can a successful #advertising #campaign help reduce #GreenhouseGas Emissions and impact #ClimateChange?





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