All the talk of "saving the planet" overlooks one thing—the planet, as abused as it's been, will be fine in the long run. It's humans who need saving.
That's the gist of a new campaign from Conservation International called "Nature is Speaking." Created by TBWA Media Arts Lab and ad legend Lee Clow, the new campaign delivers a strong message from nature—but this time, nature doesn't take on the woe-is-me demeanor of a victim, but rather that of a tough old-timer finally fed up with the folly of an entitled brat. The message is loud and clear: Nature doesn't need people, people need nature.
Celebrities Harrison Ford, Ed Norton, Julia Roberts, Robert Redford, Penelope Cruz, Kevin Spacey, and Ian Somerhalder are the voices of the ocean, the soil, Mother Nature, the redwood forests, water, the rainforest and the coral reef, respectively. And they're pissed.
Ford growls as the ocean, "I'm most of this planet. I shaped it. Every stream, every cloud and every rain drop, it all comes back to me. One way or another, every living thing here needs me. I'm the source. I'm what they crawled out of. Humans are no different. I don't owe them a thing. I give. They take. But I can always take back."
Longtime Apple ad man Clow was introduced to Conservation International by Laurene Jobs, who's been involved with the organization for years. Clow and his agency have been active in cause marketing, with initiatives like No Kill Los Angeles, and he says this new campaign is an extension of their overall approach.
"I just think if you want a lot of people to care about what you care about you need to hit an emotional chord that isn’t based on fear or heavy-handed tactics," says Clow. "So many of the groups speaking about conservation and climate change assume that man can fix the planet, as opposed to the idea that nature has been here for billions of years and we’ve been here for a nanosecond of that time span. Nature will be here long after us, so the idea that we can fix nature is I think kind of preposterous, but the idea that we desperately need nature and we better be the best stewards we can be because of that, might be a more democratic and all-inclusive appeal. As opposed to right versus left, corporations versus ecologists, this is about the human race versus extinction. It’s all of us, as opposed to various factions and groups."
Harrison Ford has been involved with the organization for the last 20 years and currently serves as vice-chair on its board of directors. Clow says the actor not only had a hand in getting other celebrities on board, but also in developing the feel of the campaign. "The tone of voice started with the ocean script—some are softer, some are edgier—but that one set the tone and it was developed with Harrison," says Clow. "The participation and help of the actors was very welcome whether it was Harrison or Ed Norton finding the voice of the soil that feels like it’s being treated like dirt."
By framing the campaign around the choice between mutually assured destruction or survival, Clow hopes to break through the partisan noise pollution. "Like so many things right now in our culture and politics, everything seems so polarized that the two extreme ends are the loudest and everyone else in the middle is getting tired and sick of nobody being able to solve anything," he says. "That was the hope for this is to be a balanced message that everyone could get on board with."
The films debut October 6 at NatureIsSpeaking.org. Julia Roberts, as Mother Nature, will kick off the series and a new film will appear each week.
The films include the #NatureIsSpeaking hashtag the CI team is encouraging social media discussion with Twitter handles for each of the films' subjects (@MotherNature_CI, @Ocean_CI, @Rainforest_CI, @Soil_CI, @Water_CI, @Redwood_CI, @CoralReef_CI).
HP, sponsor of the #NatureIsSpeaking hashtag will donate $1 to Conservation International, for every social media mention, up to $1 million.