Thoughts 21.07.21

Being “green” is only half the battle

Earlier this week we announced that ‘The Seal’, our advert for Carlsberg, promoting their partnership with WWF, won System1’s Ad of The Week and Top 5 performer. Here, our Strategy Partner, Yelena Gaufman, shares what made it such a winning ad:


Carlsberg has been in pursuit of a better tomorrow since 1847, well before sustainability was in fashion. The recent SnapPack innovation (goodbye dreaded plastic rings) is just one example of their very real, very meaningful sustainability efforts. And the partnership with WWF only makes it all that much more credible. But is that enough? In short, no.

At a time when every brand is jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, how do you get people to take notice? With everyone “doing their part” what separates the hits from the misses in terms of communication?

1/ Don’t try to boil the ocean. Plant seeds instead.

Brands get it wrong when they try to singlehandedly save the world. The partnership with WWF saved us from that pitfall but we were still very careful to avoid getting seduced by the bigness of the mission. Much as we love the panda, our contribution had to be credible. We explored a few different ‘acts’ with consumers before landing on the seagrass initiative. It’s vital to the UK shores and as importantly, for our beer drinkers, it feels close to home.

2/ Don’t bore me with statistics. Tell me a story.

Just because the act is serious doesn’t mean the story has to be. People still want to be entertained, not educated. Carlsberg campaigns have always made people smile. That wasn’t going to change just because we were doing good in the world. The system1 research shows that our ad created “sustained happiness” for viewers. Sustained happiness through sustainability. It’s a win, win.

3/ Don’t use fear to cut through. Cute seals work way better.

There’s a time and place for shocking statistics. There are scientists and documentarians who are way better at that than brands. We wanted to keep it positive. Cue cute seal. Seeing him pop out of the water when a Carlsberg is snapped sets the tone and puts the brand at the heart of the action. Who wouldn’t buy a Carlsberg to keep him frolicking in the seagrass?

People expect brands to play a role in solving the climate crisis. But they are becoming increasingly sceptical about greenwashing. So, when you set out to do your part, make sure it’s unquestionably yours. In our case, it was with a wink and a smile and a big dose of positivity.