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Gore Group Plans Ad Blitz on Global Warming

April 1, 2008
New York Times

Former Vice President Al Gore and a nonprofit climate group have begun what they say will be a three-year $300 million advertising blitz to recruit 10 million advocates to seek laws and policies that can cut greenhouse gases.

The campaign was introduced in a “60 Minutes” appearance by Mr. Gore on Sunday. The first ad, posted online at wecansolveit.org , compares the challenge of fighting global warming to the invasion of Normandy and the civil rights movement.

That advertisement will start appearing on television Wednesday, according to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a group created by Mr. Gore in 2006. It will be followed by ads tailored to particular audiences and media, including the Internet.

About half the anticipated budget has been raised from donations, mostly from anonymous benefactors, people involved in the campaign said.

In a presentation on the campaign last week, Cathy Zoi, who heads the alliance and was formerly a Clinton administration environmental aide, said the goal was to replicate the marketing success of enduring public service ad campaigns like the frying egg depicted as “your brain on drugs” and the 1971 advertisement featuring a tearful American Indian considering a polluted landscape.

John P. Murry Jr., an associate professor of marketing at the University of Iowa who has studied public service advertising, said the campaign might be spending too little.

“I think the global warming project media budget should be 10 times as high,” he said. “Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi spend over a billion dollars each year to promote brand preference for soft drinks. In this light, the $100 million per year to change our lifestyles seems pretty small.”

Pollsters and communications experts have noted that the public remains deeply divided along party lines over global warming and that the issue rarely shows up on voters’ lists of worries.

Ms. Zoi said the goal was to recruit people she described as “influentials.” She added: “These are people who talk to five times as many people a day as the typical person, who derive self-esteem from having new information.”

The ads will be coordinated with outreach through organizations like the United Steelworkers union and the Girl Scouts.

On various blogs on Monday, reactions ranged from strong support to complaints that the money would be better spent on energy research and that the effort would mainly swell coffers of environmental campaigners and carbon traders.

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