Clean Creatives is a non-profit fighting climate change by pressuring ad agencies and the industry itself to stop working on fossil fuel clients. These clients include companies like Shell, BP, Chevron, and Exxon, as well as other companies involved in the business of fossil fuels or representing their interests. With active fossil fuel producers responsible for 3/4 of global emissions since 1988, any negative impact on their advertising effectiveness will have an outsize impact on total global emissions.
The primary audience of Clean Creatives is unique: the people working in the advertising and PR industry. Our challenge is to continue to find novel ways to reach this discerning group, bringing further awareness to our cause and swelling our ranks.
SXSW is one of the biggest events on the ad industry’s calendar, drawing attendees to Austin and the attention of everyone else. We partnered with Ben & Jerry’s on a one-of-a-kind activation: an ice cream truck purposefully juxtaposed with an unexpected aesthetic to stand out in the biggest city for food trucks in the US.
One scoop at a time, our main goal was to serve up some education about greenwashing and the agencies helping fossil fuel companies do their dirty work. We also wanted to highlight our growing movement through one-on-one conversations, unique activations, and stand out enough in an extremely crowded media environment to be seen by those following the latest SXSW news from home. And, most importantly, inspire agencies and individuals to sign the Clean Creatives pledge.
SXSW is an ideal place to find a concentration of the Clean Creatives target audience of marketers and ad/PR professionals. However, SXSW is jam-packed, with a very crowded week of brand activations, panels, events, and more. We needed an idea to get people to stop what they were doing and engage with us.
Carbon & Cream started with a simple notion: people love ice cream on a hot day (it’s already hot in Austin in March), and even more when it’s free. Clean Creatives is a non-profit with an annual budget smaller than the cost of some other SXSW brand activations; thanks to our amazing partners at Ben & Jerry’s, we were able to bring the concept to life. We wanted to make education around greenwashing the central aspect of the campaign — what it is, what it looks like, and most importantly, point out how the creative industry is helping the biggest fossil fuel companies do it.
There are a lot of food trucks in Austin, so we needed a concept that would turn heads as well as bridge the dichotomy between delicious ice cream and climate change. Enter: Carbon & Cream. We designed a full aesthetic and branding for the concept — the intersection of classic ice cream parlor and goth shit. Then, we worked with our partners to design and wrap the ice cream truck, worked with a copywriter to rename popular Ben & Jerry’s flavors to deliver education on the agency-fossil fuel client relationships, and designed merch to give away along with other design touches.
With staff for the ice cream truck provided by Ben & Jerry’s, our crew was free to connect with and educate SXSW attendees and curious passersby in East Austin. We handed out stickers, directed people to our full online menu and to use our GIFs of the ice cream flavors from GIPHY, and gained new allies and pledge signers. Everyone left a little more knowledgeable and with a smile on their face.
In the grass at the truck, we also hosted a panel for over 50 in attendance, featuring industry leaders Brian O’Kelley (CEO/Founder, Scope3), Sam Hornsby (CEO, TRIPTIK)], and Kristy Drutman (Brown Girl Green). The panel was called An Inconvenient Scoop (riffing off Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth), a discussion on how to transform the creative industry into a force for climate action. We also provided some counterprogramming to the Shell House, an experiential that Shell put on to greenwash their business — showing up right outside their doorstep with Carbon & Cream scoops and education for anyone walking in or out.
Starting with an intro video we posted of the Carbon & Cream ice cream truck around town with iconic Austin locales, we posted to our various social feeds all weekend for those who weren’t able to swing by for a scoop. We also had Jacob Simon (the face and voice of Clean Creatives on TikTok) with us helping to tell the story on the ground.
The Clean Creatives movement has been growing in leaps and bounds. In order to further our legitimacy within the industry (which helps fuel further growth), we need to show up with a press-worthy presence at top destinations for marketers like SXSW. This ensures we make in-person connections and continue to stay top of mind for those who follow industry news.
With 2000 scoops of Carbon & Cream (née Ben & Jerry’s) ice cream handed out in Austin, there were 2000 opportunities to educate people on greenwashing and our mission. And 2000 opportunities to have in-depth conversations within the industry or adjacent to it. This was true whether we were at our truck’s homebase location or one of the other spots we turned up, including popping up on the street in front of the Shell House.
We had over 50 people attend our An Inconvenient Scoop panel at the truck, getting to hear from industry leaders at the forefront of the fight to separate the ad industry from fossil fuel clients.
And all of this translated to our biggest KPIs. We had 21 new agencies and 135 new individual pledge signers (both more than double the average), nearly all of them from in-person interactions. With features and mentions in industry trades like Adweek, Campaign, and The Drum, as well as the featured activation in Eater Austin’s roundup of SXSW food-focused activations, we also got 3,016,468 potential earned media impressions to continue carrying our message to all of our target audience.