The ban on tobacco ads established in many countries around the globe has set the precedent: it is possible to ban advertising for products that harm society. So, shouldn’t we forbid ads for products that cause climate change too?

This provocative question was popped up by Pentagram partner and WDCD alumnus Naresh Ramchandani in his latest contribution to Do The Green Thing. On the platform he founded together with Andy Hobsbawm, Ramchandani asks why we still allow advertising for cars, flights and other products that cause climate change.

‘Using the same logic that led to the cigarette advertising ban,’ he writes, ‘how can we let these products publicly promote themselves when, underneath their bright and shiny promises of instant style, speed, taste and pleasure lies the much darker promise of long-term hardship?’

World Warning Labels

For starters, Ramchandani proposes the communications industry enters into ‘a debate about our practice, and how to say no to work that harms our planet, and how to do so purposefully and sustainably.’

Mock up of add with World Warning Label (image from Do The Green Thing)

To spur the debate, Ramchandani’s Pentagram colleague Paula Scher, a WDCD alumnus too, proposes a series of World Warning Labels that can be added to commercial messages just like the warnings on cigarette packs.

‘The twenty-first century equivalent of Smoking Kills, these highly playful but deadly serious warning labels are ready to grace any ads for products that have previously unseen environmental consequences, and are ready to tell their inconvenient truth,’ Ramchandani writes, adding a link for ‘brave brands’ to download the labels.

Read Ramchandani’s full argument at Do The Green Thing.

Mock up of add with World Warning Label (image from Do The Green Thing)