You're Just an Image Away from Hurting Your Cause

Aaron Poffenberger

Every once in a while you run across something in support of cause that's so badly done you can't believe it's not part of a smear campaign by someone against the cause. This is one of them.

Blowing up the Opposition

The 10:10 campaign describes itself as

An ambitious project to unite every sector of society behind one simple idea: cutting our carbon by 10% a year starting now.

Regardless which side of climate change you fall on, cutting emissions by 10% doesn't sound like a half-bad idea. Who wouldn't support a 10% reduction in emissions? The answer of course is not everyone. For whatever reason some people can't or won't. In a video produced by 10:10 entitled "No Pressure" we see various persons in positions of authority (a teacher, a business executive, football coach) asking those who are accountable to them if they'd like to participate. Most everyone in the groups likes the ideas and readily agrees. As one would expect there are one or two don't wish to participate. The authority figure acknowledges their right to not participate with reassurances that it's OK and ends the discussion with "no pressure".

Looks like the authority figure respects the rights and opinions of those who don't want to participate. Just when you think it's over, the figure says something like "just one more thing," pulls out a box with a red button and pushes it. The people who don't want to participate then explode covering those who wish to participate with blood and gore. Dissent neutralized.

You can't make this stuff up. Watch the video to see a teacher explode the unpersuaded students in her 7th-grade class. See this image if you want a brief glimpse.

Class Exploding

Upon first watching you can't believe the video isn't a smear campaign by some anti-climate-change group. On YouTube there's rampant debate about the issue with some arguing the video is too polished to be a smear campaign and others rightly responding that no one in their right mind would undermine their own cause with such a video. Unfortunately, people are people and it appears the 10:10 group did undermine their own position with poor judgement. On the 10:10 No Pressure page where the video was originally uploaded, there's a statement of apology from Eugenie Harvey, the organization's director.[1]

10-10 Statement

The media coverage of the film was not the kind of publicity we wanted for 10:10, nor for the wider movement to reduce carbon emissions.

This video is a huge misstep. Images are so much more concrete and memorable than words. A great video or still image can leave a lasting, positive impression in the minds of supporters, the undecided and sometimes even doubters. Negative images can do the same in the opposite direction. Creating a video that depicts blowing-up opponents and those who aren't convinced does nothing to further the cause of reasoned persuasion.

Given how memorable, emotive and personal images can be a safe rule of thumb should be: Never use negative images or stereotypes to promote your cause or encourage people to take action. Take the high road.

The video hurt the organization's cause and gave fuel to their detractors. In the annals of bad marketing ideas, this one will be remembered for years to come.


[1] As public apologies ago, this one is typical. Harvey doesn't so much apologize for the video or its content as apologize for the impact it had. Ms Harvey should apologize for the impact but also for the poor judgement about the content itself.