Channel 4 tees up climate change programming with carbon skid marks #BehindTheIdea

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Channel 4’s in-house creative agency 4creative has launched a striking campaign for Channel 4’s Change Climate season featuring the business and political elite as you’ve never seen them before – in their carbon skid marked underpants.

The campaign builds upon the premise that historically individuals have been at the centre of focus when it comes to making behavioural changes to reduce their carbon footprint. This bold film calls out the actions and inactions of those in positions of power such as politicians and the CEOs of big businesses, questioning the extent to which they are doing enough.

The on-air TV campaign, produced by Academy Films and directed by GRANDMAS, opens with a group of business colleagues quaffing champagne as they settle down into their seats on a private jet. As the captain announces the flight time will be a mere 14 minutes the suited passengers rip off their trousers, twerking carbon skid marked white underpants towards the camera.

The scene then jumps to an office presentation with a chart titled Oil Profits and a clear sharp rise in the graph. The businessman rips off his trousers with everyone in the meeting room following suit dancing and partying, displaying their carbon-stained underpants while throwing cash in the air. The third scene is set in a political debating chamber where papers are strewn in disarray while politicians punch the air, celebrating and dancing in their stained underpants.

To learn more, we spoke to Andy Vasey and Dan Warner, creative directors at 4creative.

What was the brief?

Responsibility for tackling the climate emergency is very often placed on individual actions. We use paper straws instead of plastic, we recycle, we ride to work but are those with power doing enough in return with their policies which could make more of a difference?

We were tasked with advertising the Change Climate season on channel 4 which creates a debate about whether those with power could be doing more or taking different steps for the planet.

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

It was a really focused brief so it was quite simple really. It was just about bringing to life the contrast between the actions of individuals and the actions and in-actions of powerful institutions in as engaging a way as possible. Once we had the idea that to talk about what we’re all doing vs what those with power are doing, it was easy from there.

What was the process behind ideating the concept?

Lots of help from our marketing team and in particular strategist Thomas Schofield meant that the idea kind of wrote itsself. Thomas noted that the carbon footprint is a measure of our individual actions but shouldn’t there be a metric to measure the actions and in-actions of those with power.


Together we came up with the concept of the carbon skid mark and brought it to life. The biggest writing credit though has to go to Channel 4 lawyer Dominic Harrison. He helped us navigate how, as a public service broadcaster, we could make the campaign work but still remain duly impartial. The campaign would never have been made without his excellent advice.

What was the production process like?

It was a lot of fun. GRANDMAS (the directors) and Academy films (production company) were very creative with a challenging budget and put as much of the money on screen as possible. 

But other than it was about finding the most obnoxious track and a cast who were good enough sports to dance around in their pants to it. We shot the politicians scene first and from the first rehearsal we realised it was going to be funny, which was a relief!

What was the biggest challenge during production? How did you overcome it?

It was key that we made our shoot as sustainable as possible and that meant thinking about every aspect of production right down to the food served on set.

What kit/tools/software were used to create the project?

M&S pants, black vinyl paint, wiggling bums.

What is one funny or notable thing that happened during production?

When you’re shooting people dancing in their pants it’s pretty much all funny to be honest. The phrase ‘let’s try to put a face to every arse’ tickled us particularly during the edit.

What’s the main message of this project and why does it matter?

Individual actions may not be enough to solve the climate emergency.


Watch Channel 4’s climate season and which asks are powerful institutions doing enough in return with their policy? It matters because it’s the planet!

How long did it take from inception to delivery?

Around ten months.

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

That viewing figures for the season go through the roof and channel 4 are seen to be offering a fresh, engaging, and empowering perspective on the climate emergency.


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