By JOHN M. BRODER
Published: July 13, 2007
WASHINGTON, July 12 — Saving the planet is hard work, Al Gore says, and somebody has to sell the idea.
As a follow-up to last weekend’s Live Earth concerts he helped promote, Mr. Gore is sponsoring a competition to create a series of television and Internet ads to raise awareness on the issue of climate change.
Mr. Gore said in an interview Thursday that governments were moving much too slowly to address what he calls the global warming crisis. He said he hoped to use a sophisticated and well-financed advertising campaign to motivate people in the United States and around the globe to demand immediate action on the greenhouse gases that scientists say are cooking the planet.
The best way to reach public hearts and minds, the former vice president said, is through the time-tested medium of advertising.
“The way nations and societies make up their minds in the modern age has much more to do with mass advertising than many of us purists would like, but that’s the reality,” Mr. Gore said by telephone from California. “Since we face a true planetary emergency, we have to give the planet a P.R. agent.”
Mr. Gore, through his environmental group, the Alliance for Climate Protection, has sent invitations to advertising agencies to submit 15-, 30- and 60-second “ecospots” explaining the global warming phenomenon and urging action to address it, at either the local or national level. The alliance is soliciting entries from anyone with a camera or video-editing capabilities.
Submissions are due by Sept. 12, and the spots will be judged by a panel of activists, scientists and celebrities like Cameron Diaz and George Clooney. The alliance may choose to broadcast several of the entries; a Toyota Highlander hybrid S.U.V. will be awarded for the best spot. (Contest details are at www.current.tv/ecospot/.)
Mr. Gore said that the ads would begin showing this fall as the vanguard of what he said would be a three- to five-year campaign to ignite global action on the issue. He said he hoped some ads would run as public service announcements during time donated by television stations.
Mr. Gore said he planned to raise millions of dollars to place paid spots on commercial and cable television. He added that he expected wide distribution through his cable channel, Current TV, and on the Internet though YouTube, MySpace and various sites devoted to environmental causes.
“It’s going to have very serious funding behind it for a significant period of time. We are not playing around with this,” he said. “It is designed to move the United States and the rest of the world past a tipping point beyond which a majority of political, business and civic leaders compete to offer genuinely effective solutions to the climate crisis.”
He cited as an example of an effective spot a 45-second ad known as “Black Balloons” that illustrates how normal household tasks like brewing coffee or watching television contribute to global warming because they are powered by the burning of fossil fuels. The spot culminates with a thick cloud of black balloons representing carbon dioxide emissions swirling into the sky.
The ad originated in Australia as part of a local educational project in the state of Victoria. A version on the alliance Web site (at www.climateprotect.org/ah12/) was given a new voice-over by the actor Tommy Lee Jones, Mr. Gore’s college roommate and longtime friend.
Mr. Gore cited as a precedent the years-long campaign against smoking sponsored by the government and nonprofit health groups. He also said that individuals rather than big advertising agencies might generate the most effective ads.
Greg Stern, chief executive of Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, an advertising agency in Sausalito, Calif., endorsed the idea of user-generated content, particularly on an issue that stirs intense emotions.
“Tapping into the passion on this topic is brilliant,” said Mr. Stern, a pioneer in user-generated advertising. “The idea of turning to consumers to spread the word is very smart. It might even preclude the need for an ad agency.”
Mr. Stern had one criticism, however. “It’s unfortunate that the prize in the end is an automobile,” he said, “even if it’s a hybrid.”
Fausto Intilla's web site: www.oloscience.com