Good satire pricks consciences and challenges the powerful.

A group of climate activists and creatives have launched Atmospheric, a spoof agency, amidst news that ad agency McCann is set to re-pitch for oil giant Saudi Aramco's account. This act of satire sheds light on a crucial issue: the ethical responsibilities of advertising and creative agencies.

Atmospheric is the brainchild of the climate collective Glimpse, musician Oli Frost, and Utopia Bureau. It made its debut with a striking billboard in central London and a fully-fledged online presence. The agency's mock mission? To provide "social license" to businesses impacting the climate, a poignant jab at the advertising industry's complicity in environmental issues.

Atmospheric, the fake agency's website

This humorous yet sharp critique highlights a growing and terrifying issue: why are advertising agencies representing clients with not just controversial but highly damaging environmental records? Atmospheric's satirical approach boldly questions the industry's moral compass, mirroring the real-life decisions agencies like McCann are making.

A revealing aspect of this campaign is the public's limited awareness of fossil fuel companies' environmental impacts. Surveys show a significant knowledge gap, underscoring the influential role of advertising in shaping public opinion.

A poignant example of an advertising agency shaping public opinion for a fossil fuel giant is the campaign orchestrated by Ogilvy & Mather for British Petroleum (BP) in the early 2000s. This campaign, part of a $200 million rebranding effort that included renaming BP to "Beyond Petroleum", was designed to shift the narrative of climate change responsibility from corporations to individuals.

Ogilvy & Mather played a pivotal role in coining and popularising the term "carbon footprint", a strategy that not only diverted attention from the environmental impacts of fossil fuel companies but also placed the onus of climate change on consumers. They even developed a carbon footprint calculator, reinforcing this individual-focused narrative. This campaign cleverly repositioned BP as an innovative, progressive, and socially responsible entity, effectively masking its contributions to global emissions and shaping public perception about the role of individuals in the fight against climate change.

From Atmospheric's website — Our way: authenticity, honesty and truth. Have you ever felt more repulsed by three words?

Atmospheric's satire is more than just humour; it's a powerful tool for social change. History is replete with examples where satire has effectively brought attention to critical issues, prompting public debate and action.

Brave work, brave clients

The creation of Atmospheric serves as a reminder of the advertising industry's power and responsibility. It's a call for agencies to align their business practices with the urgent need for environmental stewardship. It’s time for change.