BITE Focus

Is recycled advertising a trend?

As the climate emergency rises up the business and brand agenda, will we see a growing number of brands adopt the Greenpeace approach and recycle their advertising?

Nicola Kemp

Managing Editor, BITE


An innate tension lies within an industry that is built on consumerism and an environmental movement that demands we consume less. A tension that comes into play even before you consider the environmental impact of creating advertising in the first place.

It is a consumer and business ecosystem that makes the Rang-tan advert such a marketing moment in time, a campaign that has successfully become more than just an advert. Rang-tan is an animated Orangutan who is thrown into an unfamiliar world after her rainforest home is destroyed.

This is the first time that an advert has been wholly reused by three different brands: Greenpeace, Iceland and most-recently Dutch-supermarket Ekoplaza.

The Rang-tan spot made the headlines in the UK last year for not being cleared by UK broadcast authorities, a decision which arguably only served to increase both the buzz and online views of the advert. Iceland’s decision to forego their Christmas retail spot to share the Rang-Tan story clearly paid off. According to Kantar Millward Brown’s annual research into the effectiveness of Christmas advertising campaigns, Iceland was crowned the most powerful advert of 2018. A marketing message that was both good for the environment and good for business too.

The trend of ‘recycled advertising’ raises a number of questions for brands. At the very least it serves as a timely reminder that, at the very least, marketers often tire of their longest-running campaigns before their consumers do. But is Rang-Tan something of a marketing anomaly? A campaign which has successfully become more than just an advert because of the urgency of its environmental message.

We asked Katie Mackay-Sinclair, Partner at Mother, to lift the lid on what ‘recycled advertising’ really means for the industry.

Q: In the era of the climate crisis explain the rise of ‘recycled advertising’. Is this genuinely more than a PR stunt?
A: Not necessarily, this is just a smart way to get more people aware of dirty palm oil. The commercial brands that have taken Rang-tan are able to reach a much broader audience than Greenpeace could have alone. It works because all the brands have a shared objective to put an end to dirty palm oil, by educating us all about it.
Q: Do you think that recycled advertising could work for commercial brands? Is the success of this campaign down to the fact it is for Greenpeace?
A: Real purpose is at the heart of Rang-tan’s story. There are countless animals being killed and many square miles of forest destroyed by the activities of industrial palm oil production, and this campaign aims to make sure people know about that. The shared objective, that has been communicated in nuanced ways by each of the brands running Rang-tan, shows that individual brands can benefit from recycling assets like this. Clearly Rang-tan has Greenpeace provenance, who are trusted experts in conservation, which helps to make the message land more readily.
Q: Will recycled advertising mark the end of an original creative idea, or conversely will creatives be liberated to think of creative ideas which transcend the lifespan of any given brand or campaign?
A: It’s more likely the latter. If ideas can work for multiple organisations, to have a much bigger impact, it could be the opening salvo in a new form of advertising, where brands don’t just talk; they act on the principles they communicate by working together.

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