15 OCTOBER 2008


The International Advertising Association had the first-ever advertising industry meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The meeting was intended to drive support for a comprehensive UN communications initiative to help combat climate change and was timed with the start of both the 63rd UN General Assembly and the fifth annual Advertising Week, held concurrently in New York City.

Present at the meeting, together with Under-Secretary-General Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka, were well-known figures from the world's largest advertising agencies including: Maurice Levy, Publicis Groupe; Michael Roth, Interpublic Group; John Wren of Omnicom; Miles Nadal, MDC Partners; Seth Farbman, Ogilvy (representing WPP); David Jones, Euro RSCG Worldwide (representing Havas); Tom Carroll, TBWA Worldwide; Byron Lewis, Uniworld; Linda Sawyer, Deutsch (and Co-Chair of Advertising Week).

The meeting grew out of an idea by the International Advertising Association to build on its social responsibility programs with the UN, a desire by the organizers of Advertising Week to galvanize the forces of the ad community for a common, larger good, and support from the most powerful leaders of the global communications industry to come up with strategic solutions to one of the most important issues facing the planet today.

Michael Lee, Executive Director of the IAA, stated: "We wanted to build on the IAA's history of cooperation with the UN and its official NGO status. It has become increasingly clear that the complexities of climate change issues present a communications challenge with both policy makers and the general public. The ad industry is up to the task of making a significant contribution to help change consumer behaviour, influence public policy and help the UN make further progress on this issue. The ultimate selling proposition might just be saving the planet. Nobody, anywhere, can surely defy the gravitational pull of responsibility?"

At the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shared his concerns about the speed and extent to which global initiatives to counter the increasing effects of climate change are needed, stating: "We need action on climate change and I applaud the determination of the advertising industry to help. As climate change affects everyone, everywhere, the UN needs partners in the private sector and in civil society to mobilize and spur action. Now is the time for action and we welcome this assistance from the advertising community, which will bolster our present capacities."

Next steps include the formation of the industry's working group (hand-selected by the leaders present at the meeting) which will develop a set of firm objectives and deliverables. The new initiative, which will be global, will be presented in the margins of the United Nations Framework Convention Climate Change Conference in Poznan, to be held in December.