11 people outside a building with "Havas" above the door. They hold a large banner reading "Stop Greenwash Lies"

Adfree Cities leads demo outside Shell’s London ad agencies

Today (June 8), Adfree Cities led a protest tour of Shell’s advertising agencies, Wunderman Thompson and Havas London, calling on them to stop working with Shell following a ruling by the advertising watchdog that banned Shell adverts for greenwashing. 

Advertising for fossil fuel companies is a major part of the problem as glossy ads give those companies the ‘social licence’ they need to continue operating. We were pleased to be joined by campaigners from Badvertising, Fossil Free Revolution, Greenpeace, Glimpse and XR Money Rebellion to tell Wunderman and Havas that working for Shell has to stop.

All images: Angela Christofilou

We began at Wunderman Thompson, who created the #PoweringProgress ads that were this week banned by the ASA for being misleading. We presented WT with a “best in greenwash” award, and handed out Hell cakes and flyers pointing out that, unlike Shell’s (now banned) ‘cleaner energy’ adverts suggested, the company remains one of the world’s worst polluters and continues to expand its climate-wrecking fossil fuel operations.

Next we walked to the nearby offices of Havas, whose global company works for Shell despite Havas Londen being a B Corp… Will Havas pitch to win Shell in the energy giant’s controversial review of its media account? We hope our crowd helped Havas make the right decision. 

Why are we taking this action?

Across the UK, protests are exposing the absurdity of expanding oil and gas extraction and rampant profiteering in the face of worsening climate impacts. What often gets overlooked is the role of advertisers in providing oil and gas companies with the ‘social license’ they need to continue doing what they do.

When we realised the harm caused by smoking, we banned their advertisements. It is time to treat fossil fuels in the same way.

That’s why we’re calling for two things:

  1. UK advertising agencies to stop enabling clients like Shell. Not only are they on the wrong side of history, but fossil fuel clients are increasingly a source of regulatory, legal and reputational risk for advertisers. 
  2. Robust legislation to stop fossil fuel advertising. Reactive regulation of fossil fuel advertising is too slow against the tide of polluting greenwash. We need to cut off the problem at its source.

Veronica from Adfree Cities spoke to Campaign about the demonstration: “We’re here today because advertising fossil fuels is toxic and wrong. It’s increasingly a source of reputational, legal and regulatory risk. We think it has to end.”

“Yesterday, Wunderman Thompson was called out by the ASA for adverts that talked up all of Shell’s lower carbon initiatives, while failing to mention that they’re vastly still invested in fossil fuels. More than 90% of their business is still in fossil fuels. They’re not winding down.

What can you do?

You can help us get the word to Wunderman Thompson by using our easy tool to tweet them, asking that they #DropTheBrief and stop representing Shell. 

You can also write to your MP calling on them to support a ban on ads for fossil fuels and other high carbon products. 

Advertising is a major part of the problem of fossil fuels. Through actions like this we can make a difference by turning advertisers away from fossil fuels.

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