A surprising set of ads is showing up in some of the nation's most popular magazines: People, Men's Health and TV Guide. They're selling the message: "you can take action against global warming." Host Pippin Ross takes a look at the spreads with Jonah Blum, editor of Ad Age Magazine.
ROSS: The science-heavy, politically charged topic of climate change is not what you expect to read about in TV Guide, Sports Illustrated, People, or Seventeen. But climate change may be moving out of the clouds and onto the magazine rack where, sweat beading on his forearm, actor Kevin Bacon warns, “Six Degrees Can Make A World of Difference.” Bacon, his wife and actress Kyra Sedgwick, film icon Susan Sarandon, the West Wing’s Bradley Whitford and CSI’s Jorja Fox, are among the cast featured in new ads in America’s most popular magazines. Joining me to take a closer look at the campaign is Jonah Bloom, executive editor of Advertising Age magazine.
BLOOM: Hi, Pippin, how’s it going?
ROSS: Good. I’m looking at, right here, the hot – and I’m not talking temperature-wise – glossy ad. It’s got a shirtless Kevin Bacon with his arms around Kyra Sedgwick. She’s also topless. Her arms cover her, but her hair – it definitely looks like she’s been you know, shall we say, engaged in some sort of activity.
BLOOM: Yeah, they both look a little sweaty, don’t they?
ROSS: Yeah, yeah. And she’s even got something leather wrapped around her wrist.
BLOOM: Yeah, I was interested…I don’t really know how that relates to global warming, but there’s certainly something going on there.
ROSS: So, the copy says, “Is it getting warm in here?” So I guess the first question for you is, is this in your opinion a good ad?
BLOOM: You know what? I actually, I was kind of pleasantly surprised by these ads. A lot of ads for, sort of, causes and for non-profit organizations can be kind of dull. And I thought these were very clever. They employed celebrities in a way that was going to catch attention. As you’re sort of intimating there, there’s obviously, like, a sexual overtone, which again always gets people’s attention. And there are some clever catch lines as well. I mean, there’s the “six degrees can make a world of difference,” sort of punning off the Kevin Bacon six degrees of separation. I thought they were kind of clever and right for the consumer magazine audience that they’re aiming for.
ROSS: Well, you know, they’re sexy and glossy and all that stuff. But it’s interesting, because these ads are really warning people about sea level rise, drought, stranded plants and animals. I mean, how surprising is it that these messages are infiltrating really mainstream magazines?
BLOOM: Well, I mean, I think that given Senators Lieberman and McCain are really trying to push this issue, it’s not that surprising that they’re trying to bring it to a broader public attention, and really force the issue up the political agenda, if you like, or higher up the political agenda. You know, it’s something, it’s one of those things where probably a kind of intellectual minority, if you like, have been concerned and been worried about it. But it’s maybe not been a mainstream issue for your average consumer, not something they’ve worried so much about as the economy, and how much money they’ve got in their pocket, and whether they’re going to be employed next week. And this is obviously trying to change that, and make them realize this is something that is happening to them.
ROSS: And the magazines, it turns out – big shocker – are providing the ad space free. The celebrities are doing it as volunteers. How unusual is that?
BLOOM: You know, there are plenty of Hollywood personalities who do care about causes and, of course, whilst we don’t want to be too cynical about this, it’s never a bad thing for the celebrity concerned to show that they’re someone who cares about social causes. It helps them with a certain part of their audience and gives them a certain type of credibility, as well.
ROSS: I’m just curious – how much does a page in People or Wired cost?
BLOOM: Probably very different rates there. You know, in People you’re looking at a hugely popular weekly. In something like Wired you’re looking at a big glossy monthly. So it can be very different depending on the type of publication. But you’re probably looking at upwards of $25,000 for a page in either of those publications.
ROSS: Okay, so does this ultimately signal to you that the public discussion and interest on this subject is evolving, it’s growing?
BLOOM: I don’t know whether it yet signals that. You’d like to think that the public interest and discussion is growing. But, obviously, the ads tend to predate the discussion that comes after them. But certainly, the fact that they’re now burrowing down not just to the, necessarily, The New York Times reader, who’s going to plow through a long article which talks about the science of, for example, global warming, but they’re also going for the People reader. You know, that tells you that they’re trying to broaden the audience for this, and you’d imagine that this would be a relatively successful campaign in achieving that.
ROSS: Well, thank you so much for being with us, Jonah.
BLOOM: Not at all, not at all, a pleasure.
ROSS: Jonah Bloom is executive editor for Advertising Age magazine. To see photos of the celebrities featured in the “Climate Stars” ad campaign go to our web site: livingonearth.org. That’s livingonearth.org.
[MUSIC: Nelly “Hot in Herre” Nellyville Universal (2002)]