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Greenpeace UK’s comedy Ultimate Roast Battle from Nice and Serious helped highlight the devastation of deforestation and draw attention to the ultimate Christmas conspiracy: turkey.
Our food system is broken; we are literally eating our way to mass extinction and climate breakdown. The food we eat is responsible for 80% of tropical deforestation. Forests and other vital habitats are being wiped out for meat. Unique habitats like the Brazilian Cerrado, the world’s most wildlife-rich savannah, are being destroyed to grow animal feed, which is being fed to factory-farmed chickens in the UK.
While the conversation around the meat industry’s shocking levels of greenhouse gas emissions has become increasingly mainstream, there’s a stark lack of awareness around links to deforestation. It’s an urgent issue, and one that Greenpeace UK has decided to prioritise. As a result, they made it the focus of their annual ‘alternative Christmas ad’.
Christmas gave us a great hook to link food with deforestation. Most people, whether they celebrate Christmas or not, associate it with a big family dinner. However, it was immediately obvious to us that coming down heavy on people for having fun, or guilt tripping them about their choices, would not make them sympathetic to our cause. So, we needed to find a novel way in.
On the surface, Christmas feels like a time of ritual and repetition. Year-on-year, the decorations come out, Hollywood blockbusters are on TV, board games and charades are prioritised over social media and apps; or at the very least, we pretend that we’re not checking our phones.
But while it might seem like the formula is set, Christmas only works because it makes room for change: marriage and divorce, changing friendships and new relationships, emigrating aunties and long-lost uncles, and a never-ending stream of new-born babies. Our Christmas cast lists are ever-changing.
And when a new combination of people spend Christmas together for the first time, their traditions collide and create a whole new experience. On top of that, our target audience for the campaign, millennials, are ruthlessly killing off Christmas traditions: only 22% will have a real Christmas tree, even fewer (14%) will hang mistletoe around the house, and around a fifth want to spend the day with friends rather than family.
So, we played around with the idea of showing that the spirit of Christmas is one of evolution, and that ‘the traditional thing’ to do this Christmas would be to keep that spirit going by eating less meat. Or something like that; I can’t actually remember the details. Because while we were mining for insights in that space, we stumbled across something that made us change course entirely: turkey is no one's favourite food.
A significant chunk of our millennial audience isn’t that keen on turkey. Their complaints centred around it being dry, bland and boring. But it doesn’t stop there: a YouGov poll found that almost half of all Britons would prefer something else on their plate at Christmas. Yet according to the British Turkey Information Service - yup, that’s a real thing - three quarters of us eat turkey at Christmas.
So why do we eat turkey during a time of year that is literally designed to be special? That got us thinking along the lines of conspiracy. Conspiracy theories seem to be everywhere at the moment; in fact, 60% of Britons believe one. They form the basis of so many of our polarising opinions. The same polarising opinions that we proceed to shove down people’s throats while they’re stuffing their face with Christmas turkey. Combined, these insights felt rich and naturally coalesced around an exciting creative proposition: ‘Use humour to expose the ultimate Christmas conspiracy…Turkey.’
And as we were looking to expose the ultimate Christmas conspiracy, it only felt fair to let the main villain in the story defend themselves by bringing turkey to life. With the rise in popularity of comedy roast battles, we realised we had two ingredients to create the Ultimate Roast Battle, literally.
Set in a dingy comedy club, the two stars of Christmas lunch, Turkey, played by Jack Barry and Potato, played by Annie McGrath, come together on stage to roast each other. The burns are harsh, and the crowd is loving it until Potato takes it too far, exposing Turkey’s dirty little secret and revealing the conspiracy. Turkey can’t take the heat and gets gobbled off the stage.
With the Ultimate Roast Battle, we’re able to make the link that meat production is destroying our forests, by setting up a villain everybody already loves to hate and enabling our audience to talk about it with their family and friends this Christmas.
Fadi Dada is a Strategist at Nice and Serious, a creative agency focused on making creative work the world needs. He’s worked with international charities and brands, including WWF, BAFTA, IKEA, Ben & Jerry's and Mars, to communicate environmental and social issues through branding, campaigns and creative content.
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