“Advertising can be important as it can make new ideas win and kick out old ideas – but campaigns aren’t trying to kick anything out – they’re just saying, you can have us as well. Where are the train campaigns that are aggressively going after the airliners, where are the co-owned car services that are aggressively going after the SUVs?”
Needless to say, we loved this conversation. We hear how the ‘do it yourself’ punk ethos led Gustav from founding a punk band to a successful award winning digital advertising agency with offices in Stockholm, Gothenberg and San Francisco.
Gustav tells us how he was fast becoming disillusioned with some of the campaigns he was working on - (broken hearted in some cases) - with assignments becoming less playful and far more commercial. “The internet was moving from being a distributed democratic playground into a cloud controlled user experience owned by a few players - giving them control over creativity and messaging - and that felt a bit scary and weird - and not the environment I really loved.”
This shift coincided with the release of Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. And Gustav tells us that at that time, he saw CO2 reduction as an opportunity, not a threat. “Change felt like a good thing - I had no idea we wouldn’t embrace it - why wouldn’t we use this opportunity to create a better life.”
We hear about Gustav’s move from agency life to Greenpeace - the fossil fuel ad ban campaigns, the creative inspiration behind handing back his ‘Lion’ at the 2022 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and how that action struck an emotional chord with the industry, making headline news across ad land.
There’s a lot covered in our conversation beyond activism and we discuss the fundamental role of advertising and marketing - how people don’t understand how marketing works, how advertising changes behaviours, creating unnecessary desires and culture change to align with business models that are wrecking the planet, but with a focus on driving more profit.
Gustav shares examples of creative work and business remodelling concepts he championed - one example of how in 2007 he built the digital infrastructure for Scandinavian Airlines to become a ‘travel and meeting’ business - including CO2 reduction via train travel and online meetings. And how 2 years later the project was discontinued to refocus on short term profit.
“I got so many briefs that just made me want to puke - and I knew it was just going to get worse. I realised that unless we disrupt this from the outside, nothing is going to change. I had the privilege to do that - if you have the privilege to get out and disrupt from the outside, you should.”
We discuss society, a simpler life, less focus on consumption, more focus on living, connecting, being. As Gustav shares…
“You need to change your lifestyle and it needs to be changed on a system level.”
Huge thanks to Gustav for his time and insights. Yet again, we learned so much - enjoy listening, tell us what you think.
Feeling challenged, motivated and ready to disrupt from the outside? Let us know.
More information about Greenpeace, the wonderful work they do and how you can support here.
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Our podcasts are recorded purely via online conferencing platforms, we apologise for any minor sound quality issues.