Day 7: Write to reject fossil fuel ads
Today's action: Asking the media to quit fossil fuel ads
Today’s action is to email (or send a message or letter to) a newspaper/media outlet to ask them to stop running ads from fossil fuel companies. If you subscribe to a newspaper, write to that one (unless it's The Guardian, which has already done this). See “tips” below for how to contact your newspaper. If you don’t subscribe to any, write the New York Times (email to firstname.lastname@example.org AND email@example.com).
Here’s a sample message, which you can copy and adapt.
SAMPLE MESSAGE → Hi, I’m a [long-time subscriber/enthusiastic reader] of [PUBLICATION]. I’m deeply concerned about climate change. I’m writing to ask you to stop writing or running any print, online, or podcast ads for companies whose main business is the extraction or sale of fossil fuels, as well as associated industry groups.
As you are well aware, we are at a critical moment in history; the climate decisions we make this decade will determine whether climate stabilization or climate catastrophe wins out. The fossil fuel industry has fueled decades of misinformation, and ads for fossil fuel companies continue to mislead the public.
Running fossil fuel ads contributes to continued public confusion at a moment when we need to take bold, decisive climate action. Other publications have already declined to accept fossil fuel ads; I ask that you do the same. Sincerely, [YOUR NAME]
Why this action? At first glance, the fossil fuel ads you see might seem like a good thing, since they acknowledge the reality of climate change and highlight the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to address it. The problem is that the ads are intentionally misleading, grossly exaggerating industry efforts in order to create a sense of complacency. By creating the illusion that the companies themselves are solving the problem, they are also designed to deter further government restrictions on fossil fuel emissions. This is just the latest in a long line of efforts by fossil fuel companies aimed at confusing us and preventing meaningful climate policy. Beyond running companies’ misleading ads, some media outlets actually create those ads through their internal branded content arms, lending additional legitimacy to industry claims. Not cool!
BTW, why are we picking on the NYT? To align with an ongoing campaign on just this topic, as we explain further in the “more info” section below.
Looking for more? Read on for our tips on contacting media about this, and for more info and actions.
To contact a newspaper that you subscribe to, your best bet is to log in to your online account and then find the “contact us” section. Most papers give you a form to fill out, and you’ll likely have to pick from different “topic” areas. They generally don’t have a “complaints about our advertisements” option, so just pick whatever seems like the closest topic. For example, for the Washington Post, you can go to “Contact Us,” then pick “Journalism” as the main topic and “Send feedback about a news article” as your secondary topic. Then paste in our sample text, adjusting it as you see fit, and submit!
For NPR, you can use this form.
For the LA Times, you can write to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
For Politico, you can use this form.
For the Chicago Tribune, write the general manager: email@example.com.
For the NYT, email <firstname.lastname@example.org> and <email@example.com>.
Learn and reflect:
Understand the precedent! Some US newspapers already ban harmful advertising, like from tobacco companies (see this 1999 announcement from the NYT). And other newspapers, like The Guardian, already reject advertising from fossil fuel companies.
The fossil fuel industry knew about the catastrophic dangers linked to burning coal, oil, and natural gas in the 1960s, but instead of taking action, they spent billions to confuse us and prevent action. To see the evolution of misleading fossil fuel ads over the years, check out these examples.
Get inspired by this list of initiatives around the world to ban fossil fuel ads.
For recent examples of misleading fossil fuel ads and sponsored content, see here and here (about the New York Times) and here (about the Washington Post). Read more about how leading media create branded content for fossil fuel companies here and here. And to learn why there are so many fossil fuel ads on podcasts, see here.
Social media presents its own problems. Read more about Facebook’s role in spreading climate denial here and here.
Sign the petition to get the New York Times to stop running fossil fuel ads. (You can do this even if you already wrote the NYT for your daily action!)
Sign the petition to get social media and big tech to ban fossil fuel ads.
If you work in advertising/PR or use advertising agencies, sign the Clean Creatives pledge. (As creatives or leaders of agencies, the pledge says that you will decline future contracts with the fossil fuel industry; as clients, it says you will decline work with agencies that retain fossil fuel industry clients.)
So … we don’t advocate anonymous Internet trolling for any reason. But calling out fossil fuel companies’ social media posts (or greentrolling, if you will) can be effective in pushing back against their greenwashing, if you’re into that kind of thing. Just saying.
Bonus action! We initially published this on a Friday (Fri-YAY?!). Every Friday, people around the world protest as part of “Fridays for Future,” the youth-led movement catalyzed by Greta Thunberg. More than 14 million have participated to date! If you’re itching to get involved, this map lists ongoing school strikes/protests. Maybe you can make it to the next one? In the meantime, you can visit https://fridaysforfuture.org/ to learn more about the movement, or watch Greta’s 2018 TedTalk here.