Dozens of other ad agencies, most of them small, have signed the same pledge, which was put together by the advocacy group Fossil Free Media. The effort, which is known as Clean Creatives, is managed by Duncan Meisel, an environmental activist who conceded that it would be difficult for ad agencies to say no to fossil fuel dollars during a pandemic.
“The advertising industry is not super healthy right now,” Mr. Meisel said. “People are used to having these clients, and it’s hard to say no to a paycheck.”
Environmental activists are not the only ones who have been applying pressure on ad makers. Amsterdam voted in December to investigate how to block oil and gas ads from its streets. Other calls to ban such advertising, attach climate warnings to it, or prevent fossil fuel companies from sponsoring sports teams have emerged in Australia, Netherlands, Canada, France, Belgium, Finland and elsewhere.
Democratic officials have filed lawsuits over the past 18 months in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, D.C., and Hoboken, N.J., accusing Exxon, the trade group American Petroleum Institute and others in the industry of engaging in deception about climate change, including through their ads.
Several publications have limited or stopped accepting fossil fuel ads, including the British Medical Journal, The Guardian, and the Swedish publications Dagens Nyheter and Dagens ETC. The New York Times said in a statement that it did not allow oil and gas companies to sponsor its climate newsletter, its climate summit or its podcast “The Daily.” It still publishes paid posts from companies such as Exxon. In a statement, The Times said that “advertising helps support our newsroom, which covers the issue and impacts of climate change more than any other in the U.S.”
Hillary Moglen, a principal at Rally, a Los Angeles advocacy communications firm that has avoided working with oil and gas companies, said a shift was underway. “It’s an old-guard, new-guard situation,” she said. “There will be a point when it won’t be culturally acceptable to work with these clients.”