Press Release: International Week of Action against Airline Advertising

by | 22 Sep 2022 | Actions, Press Release

Airline advertisements grounded across Europe in latest climate protest

Contact: Tona Merriman, brandalismproject@gmail.com, Tel: +44 7471593736  

Full photo set available here

Interviews at relevant hacked advertising sites available on request.

  • 500 advertising sites hacked with satirical airline adverts in 15 European cities
  • Over 300,000 citizens call on EU Commission to prohibit ‘fossil advertising & sponsorship’
  • UN Secretary-General blasts advertising industry for “harmful misinformation”

After a summer of record breaking temperatures exacerbated by global heating, advertising billboards across Europe have been hacked with more than 500 satirical artworks, unveiled today, to highlight the role of airline marketing in driving up greenhouse gas emissions.  Campaigners are calling on the EU Commission to introduce tobacco-style advertising bans to curb demand on flights and prevent emissions from rising further.

Advertising panels in Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Liège, Lisbon, Rome, Nantes, London, Bristol, Norwich  and other European cities were “hacked” with posters highlighting the aviation industry’s lack of meaningful action on climate change. The airlines referenced in the artworks include KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, Ryanair, Easyjet, SAS Airlines, ITA Airways and Etihad – as well as the industry body IATA.

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Above: a satirical British Airways advert highlighting the extra emissions of Business Class travellers

One artwork by artist Darren Cullen satirises the over-sized carbon footprint of Business Class flights, with the text “We’re turning Business Class green with the world’s first on-board golf course.” Another by artist Michelle Tylicki depicts an aeroplane flying over wildfires, with the text “Fly Responsibly?”. Other designs by artists Street Market Subvertiser, Soofiya, Lindsay Grime, Hogre and Matt Bonner call attention to ‘greenwashing’ in which airlines and airports make sustainability claims that campaigners say conceal the actual impact aviation has on the planet.

Climate and anti-advertising campaigners are garnering support, with over 300,000 people signing a ‘European Citizen Initiative’ to ban fossil advertising and sponsorship. [1]

As Europe emerges from one of the hottest summers on record, activists and artists from the anonymous Brandalism group and The Subvertisers International network have targeted airline companies and their advertising agencies on billboards, bus stops and public transport advertising spaces. They highlight the disproportionately large carbon footprint of flying [2], the fact that the majority of flights are taken by a tiny fraction of the total population [3], and that airlines have missed all but one of the sustainability targets set by the aviation industry.[4]

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Above: a satirical advert for KLM who are facing legal challenges in the Netherlands for misleading advertising

Local governments in Amsterdam, Haarlem, Utrecht, Liverpool, Norwich and North Somerset have already passed motions to restrict adverts for airlines, airports, as well as non-electric cars and fossil fuel companies. Sydney council recently banned advertising for coal, oil and gas projects and France has passed national legislation against some adverts for fossil fuels.

Tona Merriman from Brandalism said:

“The allure and glamour of high carbon lifestyles such as frequent flying has been purposefully crafted by the advertising industry and shows no signs of relenting – despite one of the hottest summers on record. Advertising agencies such as Ogilvy, VCCP, Dentsu, DDB Munchen need to consider their role in driving up emissions for airlines they work for such as British Airways, Easyjet, KLM and Lufthansa. We call on employees in those firms to refuse work for high carbon clients.” 

The naming of specific advertising agencies comes as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres blasted the Public Relations industry at the 77th General Assembly in New York on Tuesday 20 September, “Just as they did for the tobacco industry decades before, lobbyists and spin doctors have spewed harmful misinformation.”  [5]

A report released earlier this year estimated that, in 2019, global airline advertising could be responsible for emissions of up to 34 MtCO2 – the equivalent of burning 17 million tonnes of coal, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of Denmark in 2017. [6] One report estimates that advertising for airlines and cars in 2019 caused the equivalent of double the annual emissions of Spain in the same year. [7]

Campaigners from Adfree Cities (UK), Badvertising  (UK), Résistance à l’Agression Publicitaire (France), Climáximo (Portugal), Greenpeace International and 35 other organisations and are calling for tobacco-style legislation to end adverts for high carbon products. Polling by Opinium research in April 2022 found that 68% of UK adults support restrictions on ads for environmentally-damaging products.[9]

This action comes at a time of growing international momentum behind banning high-carbon advertisements. The city of Sydney, home to over five million residents, has recently become the second major city to ban fossil fuel advertising in public spaces [10], following Amsterdam which became the first city in the world to ban ads from fossil fuel firms and airlines in 2021.

Robbie Gillett, from Adfree Cities in the UK, said:

“Advertising for airlines and airports is driving up demand for flights and trashing the climate. We urgently need to see the creation of viable, sustainable transport alternatives to flying that ensures job security for workers currently employed in aviation. In the meantime, a simple step that government, both local and national, can take is to prohibit advertising for polluting products – for the benefit of peoples’ health, air quality and the climate.”

Andrew Simms, of the Badvertising campaign, said:

“Advertising plays a crucial, but often overlooked, role in fueling the climate crisis. By pushing high-carbon goods, such as cheap flights, advertising is complicit in driving carbon emissions higher at a time when we need to see an urgent reversal. Just like cigarette advertisements were eventually snuffed out from the 1980s onwards, governments and regulators need to step up to stop these companies polluting the planet and public space.” 

Photo Credit: 1) Lindsay Grime, 2) Spelling Mistakes Costs Lives, 3) Michelle Tylicki

-END-

Notes to Editors

[1] https://banfossilfuelads.org/

[2] https://dev.stay-grounded.org/get-information/#injustice

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/17/people-cause-global-aviation-emissions-study-covid-19

[4]  https://www.wearepossible.org/latest-news/for-20-years-the-aviation-has-missed-all-but-one-of-their-sustainability-targets

[5] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/09/20/un-chief-blasts-pr-industry-spearheading-big-oils-propaganda-machine

[6] https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-sweden-stateless/2022/02/6652a35f-carbon-in-ads-report.pdf

[7]  https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-sweden-stateless/2022/02/6652a35f-carbon-in-ads-report.pdf

[8] https://www.badverts.org/latest/polling-finds-big-uk-majority-in-favour-of-curbs-on-polluting-ads

[9] https://www.adnews.com.au/news/city-of-sydney-votes-to-end-fossil-fuel-advertising

[10] Advertising agencies complicit in working with airlines to promote high-carbon lifestyles and greenwash their image include VCCP for Easyjet, Ogilvy for British Airways, Dentsu Benelux for KLM and DBB München for Lufthansa.

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