Off to new climes – whether we like it or not

by Kurt K. Eifler

Cannes is a highlight for me, as it is for every filmmaker. A long-awaited dream to visit the film festival or the Cannes Lions. This feeling was reinforced when I pitched up here on holiday in 2015. Since then, the visit has been on my bucket list every year. Now I am actually here with the BW Lions. On the first day I still knew exactly what to expect, in the evening I didn’t feel picked up. Now that half of the week is over, I know: I’ll definitely be back, but then with a submission. 

For Cannes, I’ve taken up the cause of sustainability (like my colleagues Moritz Schreiner and Daniel Hofmeier), partly because I’m going to start green producing with EMD Studio in autumn. Now you might think: marketing, advertising and sustainability – how does that fit together? That’s exactly the point, it doesn’t fit yet. And the big brands make you feel it in every presentation (as long as you’re not stuck in the American Goodlife Bubble). It can happen that a three-and-a-half-minute monologue on “The Everything Change” is followed by a statement by an indigenous speaker from Brazil, Txai Surui, only to discover that the managers and CEOs are simply advertising for Metaverse, want to drive consumption and do not address the problems at all. More on this in the blog post by Daniel Hofmeier.

Surprise guest Ay Young was both embarrassing and disappointing for me. Doesn’t ring a bell? An extremely committed musician, ambassador and Young Leader of the UN for sustainability and the 17 climate change goals. Disappointing because his performance neither named problems nor offered solutions. Embarrassing because the thoroughly likeable young man jumped through the hall to spread good humour, which was somehow supposed to generate more attention for global warming. The message didn’t reach me, I couldn’t pick up more “awareness” and urge for action on sustainability. Greenwashing and covering up problems with good humour do not help. For me, the benefit is not clear.

But slow down now, isn’t there something happening? Maybe in this new metaverse? It could be the salvation when thousands no longer travel by plane to no conferences and festivals and increase their personal CO² footprint. No more Fashion Week with long journeys, thousands of people and enormous demand for textiles. Generally less overproduction as avatars wear NFT-based clothes and buy digital items. The so-called D2A business (Digital to Avatar). What is worn in the real world while travelling as an avatar in the metaverse? Doesn’t matter. We already know this from video conferences. The danger I see in the metaverse: we lose control over time, real social interaction, real values and also inevitably over CO² consumption, even more than it already is with social media. The technology is touted as more climate-friendly, but what happens behind the scenes? Servers have to run, NFTs have to be calculated, avatars, graphics and CGI have to be rendered, and this requires large bandwidths. All this has an enormous energy demand, even more so if it goes according to Meta and we are supposed to spend a quarter of our day, i.e. 6 hours there. And we will be even less interested in this consumption because we will no longer be able to visualise it – we are in the metaverse. The uncertainty in connection with a New Mark, which directs consumption in a new direction, is frightening. So what to do? Neither the current state with travel and conferences is sustainable, nor a diffuse technology.

So the plan, it seems, is to use the buzzword “sustainability” to sell us a new product. Actually, we, the advertising industry and filmmakers are supposed to bring the metaverse to the brands and companies. So that they promote their products there and form NFTs. 

For those who don’t know what the Metaverse actually is, you could say: Second Life 2.0 or simply a virtual world, like a game, where you can communicate, meet people and in the future something like a Fashion Week can take place. We tried out Metaverse, of course. The world looks like a Nintendo Go graphic. It’s fun, but I don’t want to spend six hours here. The weight of the glasses alone and the constant slipping kills the experience in the long run, plus “outdated” graphics and bugs. Not to mention, it’s an experience, so it’s entertaining for a short time, but that’s about it.

In short, the talks are about advertising, product selling and brand growth, which is why we kept hearing about the new metaverse. Sustainability only comes into play if it can be used to market the product better. That is the essence of advertising: sell sell sell. A lecture like Lisa Merrick Lawless’ is refreshing. With Purpose Disruptors she takes an important step and has recognised what sustainability is all about. She has formed a network and now produces green ads, i.e. ads that promote sustainable products – with sustainably produced advertising. It was also nice that the hall was full because everyone thought Ryan Renolds would give a second talk. The topic of sustainability thus had a maximum audience – Cannes Lions did something right. If the festival now introduces sustainability as an evaluation factor, that would be great.

Your point for the creative industry is: use your creativity to drive sustainability, to think ahead and to fantasise – only with our imagination depicted in films and campaigns do we manage to convince the rest, to initiate solutions to create a more sustainable world. This creative impact is ultimately felt in the award shows, which drive me personally to create something, to produce something, of course sustainably – to lead with it and in the best case produce an award-worthy submission.