Green the scenesters: non-mainstream climate change communications

It’s a fact: Climate change communication can sometimes be dim and dull. Few communication campaigns succeed in reaching their targets, raising awareness and sparking off a reaction. Add to this that many campaigns are aiming at hitting an unidentified and obscure target known as “the people”. Defining your target, digging into its aspirations, motivations and the channels to reach it, is the preliminary step of any successful communication campaign.

This task can be even harder when you try to reach an audience which defines itself as “not mainstream” and is fighting hard not to be labelled or targeted. But this is exactly the challenge that Greenpeace and the Blacksmoke art collective tackled when they set up a project to communicate climate change issues to the British underground “scenesters”, a young British sub-culture group (“urban middle class adults and older teenagers with interests in non-mainstream fashion and culture” –Wikipedia).

The Danger Global Warming Project is an independent multimedia initiative aimed at raising awareness around climate change issues through the medium of art and digital media.  Artists from all over the world were asked to incorporate Greenpeace’s black and yellow warning tape motif into artworks of any forms. As a result, multimedia pieces of art (video, image, installation…) were submitted from all over the world.

The collective has efficiently dug into its audience culture to highlight its motivations (the hunt for exclusive arts) and aspirations. The campaign features sharp music bands like Utah Saints and underground stars such as Bruce LaBruce and Billy Childish; artists few people know, but icons for the British underground scene. Blacksmoke is going against a majority of climate change campaigns that feature global celebrities such as Leonardo Di Caprio, thus aiming at reaching the wide majority of “people”.

Blacksmoke aim at creating a buzz in the British underground scene and on the internet. Visuals and clips are relayed on the web through Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube etc.

One can however question the efficiency of such an unconventional campaign. Indeed the use of alternative artists pushes the target audience to focus more on the communication channel than on the actual message. Just flick through the comments posted underneath the pieces of art on the internet and you will see that the majority of posts are actually more interested in the artistic happening than in the message conveyed.

The campaign manages to reach its target audience (get a foot in the door) but actually fails to transmit the message (pass the door) and therefore inspire action. This observation leads to the question to what extent climate change communication can be tailored to an audience’s motivations and “scene” without dissolving the message in everyday life inspirations.

As an example of the material featured in this campaign, you can watch below the Danger Global Warming tune, remixed by Utah Saints and video clip by Alexandre Athane, “As an allegory for recycling, influential musicians and DJ’s from around the world are remixing the official Danger Global Warming theme tune, featuring lead vocals by Hugh Cornwell and a 35 piece orchestra”.

Posted by Caroline Martinot

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