April 2007 - Marketing Methods

The Marketing of An Inconvenient Truth

By Peter Koeppel

In this column, I usually cover topics related to the marketing of products and services. However, I’m dedicating this installment to the marketing of An Inconvenient Truth, a film about global warming, a phenomenon that many believe is impacting our ability to continue living on Earth.

Al Gore put together a brilliant plan for marketing his Academy Award-winning documentary. In fact, he was recently selected Media magazine’s person of the year, because of how effectively he used the media in an effort to save the environment.

Gore kicked off his communications plan during a keynote address at the advertising agencies’ media conference in March 2006. He presented a multimedia plan for informing the public about the dangers of global warming and promoting his film. Gore called upon Madison Avenue to help him, unveiling a massive advertising campaign calling for the leading environmental and faith-based groups to work together to combat global warming. He asked the advertising community to match the campaign “dollar for dollar” with pro bono contributions. Gore also worked with the Advertising Council in developing public service ads. He utilized a high-impact online campaign to get his message out. It included banners, keyword marketing, exclusive video clips, blogs and e-mail, among other tactics.

Now, a year later, many fewer people disagree with his message, so the impact of the campaign has been significant. According to Media, the world’s leading scientists recently issued a report that confirms what Gore has been preaching for 30 years, that with a 95-percent certainty, human behavior is contributing to global warming and that behavior is altering our ability to live on this planet.

Gore’s team did the research, put together an incredible presentation and a powerful documentary, a compelling book and one of the most effective marketing campaigns that I’ve ever witnessed. He also pledged to have all the proceeds from the book and movie pay for a major advertising campaign.

I personally have experienced the impact of Gore’s efforts. TXU, a Texas-based power company, was trying to build 11 highly polluting, coal-fired power plants, which would contribute 78 million tons of new global-warming gasses annually. Citizens, business leaders, politicians and environmental groups banded together to fight TXU’s plans. TXU wasn’t prepared for the fight and decided to sell the company, and the new owners have agreed to scale back the project to three plants and to cut back plant emissions.

I’m confident that Gore’s marketing efforts built awareness among the public about global warming and contributed to TXU backing down on its ambitious plans. It’s not often that a great marketing plan can change world opinion, but that’s what Al Gore and his team were able to accomplish, and I commend them for their efforts.

Peter Koeppel is president of Koeppel Direct, Inc., a full service media buying agency based in Dallas. He can be reached at (972) 732-6110, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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