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Storytelling and archetypes around climate change #Paris2015

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Starting today, the United Nations Paris Conference on Climate change is taking place.

The threat of global warming is, and will continue to be, an issue of primary importance for life on our planet as we know it. However, the environment still remains on the periphery of the international public eye, battling for coverage within mainstream media channels.

That said, impressive campaigns to attempt to tackle these issues have broken through and generated much needed exposure.

By using compellingly-emotive archetypes in the battle of societal good against corporate evil, here’s the Greenpeace ‘Everything Is NOT Awesome’ campaign video from LEGO that went viral last year, a campaign that forced the company to sever its $60 million, half-a-century long relationship with oil company Shell.

The YouTube short by London-based creative agency Don’t Panic was part of an overall campaign by the green lobby group to pressure the world’s largest toymaker to drop a partnership, which included distributing its toys at Shell petrol stations. Brilliantly ironic and subtly playful, the video received over 7 million hits and drove 680 thousand petition signatures.

Set to a haunting, melancholic parody of The LEGO Movie theme tune, the film begins with the blissful backdrop of a LEGO Artic vista. As Shell-branded lorries and drills are introduced the mood of the scene becomes more sombre and threatening. The final scenes see sticky, black oil drowning the pristine environment until nothing is left white.

To weave narrative through this story, the innocence of the Artic and all its natural beauty is skilfully juxtaposed against the portrayed reckless environmental action of the oil giant. Purity, fragility and wholesomeness are directly contrasted with suggested dishonesty, destruction and greed.

The shrewd use of archetypes in this piece is clear, and they are used for good reason. Archetypes are universal and connect us to shared human experience. They transcend time, place, culture, gender and age, and symbolise eternal truths. Everything is NOT Awesome uses this power to great effect.

In sum, it is often through the use of archetypes that storytelling helps us understand shared experiences. And so, specifically this week in Paris, it is through archetypes that story has the potential to help us understand and transform the current climate change narrative; from Villain to Guardian, from Tragedy to Rebirth.

Sam Knowles
Sam Knowles is Founder & MD of Insight Agents. He helps companies, brands and third-sector organisations to find simple, true and authentic language. This gives them the tools, permission and confidence they need to communicate more effectively. His mission is to eliminate jargon and corporate multiple personality.

Sam is currently writing a book called How To Be Insightful, the history, psychology and application of insight. The book is based on the Insight Agents’ STEP Prism of Insight (TM) model of generating ideas. It will be published soon.

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