At the opening ceremony of this year’s Cannes Lions festival, Gustav Martner mounted the stage carrying a gold statue he received some years ago, and gave it back.
Martner has attended this annual celebration of creativity in advertising many times, as both a juror and a winner. Prestigious awards for his creative work were career highlights, each statue a signal that he was doing something right.
Then the ‘diesel-gate’ scandal broke and the penny dropped. “I won my first Lion for Volkswagen,” he says. “It was a wake-up call when I realized the part I had to play in selling those cars.”
This year he came to Cannes as Head of Creative for Greenpeace Nordic, to return his trophies in protest. “Since the Paris Agreement at least 300 awards have been given out at Cannes Lions to adverts promoting air travel, to oil companies that greenwash, and to ads that make cars with polluting combustion engines more desirable.”
As soaring temperatures and tumbling records bring the flames of climate change uncomfortably close to home, Martner’s epiphany raises troubling questions about our own professional complicity in the destruction of the Earth’s climate and biodiversity and rattles taken-for-granted ideas about consumption and economic growth upon which most businesses and professional lives are built.
Gustav Martner’s epiphany raises troubling questions about our own professional complicity in the destruction of the Earth’s climate and biodiversity.