Earth Day PSA from Greta Thunberg Fires Up Media for Non-COVID Cause

In January, climate activist Greta Thunberg trademarked her student strike movement, #FridaysforFuture, and launched a nonprofit of the same name to handle financials and messaging (namely, donations and book sales). On Jan. 30, Thunberg told BBC News the move was an effort to stop impersonators from using her name to collect money, contact high-profile individuals and spread false messaging.

In tandem with Earth Day and online Climate Strike events (a large global, in-person strike had been planned, but went digital due to COVID-19), Fridays for Future is calling attention to climate change as an urgent threat. It is doing so as the pandemic overshadows nearly everything.

Simple But Effective Video

On April 21, the group released a simple, effective 1-minute video ad. “Our House is On Fire” shows a family going through its morning routine. As the family eats breakfast and packs school lunches, its members ignore that their house is going up in flames.

“The world has stayed home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, temporarily decreasing carbon emissions. But with the pressure on nations to reopen…it’s widely assumed pollution will likely return to pre-outbreak levels. The new ad is intended to remind people of the urgent task at hand,” noted Ad Week’s Doug Zanger.

In addition to Ad Week, the PSA has won coverage in The Drum, Reuters and The Hill. The video’s success thus far should remind communicators that keeping visuals concise and simple is a solid strategy for memorable storytelling. It’s also cementing the “Our House is On Fire” maxim to Thunberg’s personal brand. Her book carries the same name.

The PSA’s earned media thus far suggests that for those pitching non-coronavirus stories, aiming for placement in industry trades may be a better use of PR professionals’ time than targeting larger outlets while the mainstream news cycle remains largely COVID-19 focused.

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