How to get involved in countering airline adverts

by | 29 May 2024 | Actions

In April over 30 groups took part in the International Week of Action Against Airline Advertising, Sponsorship and Greenwash. Here’s a recap of the week, some key learnings and steps you can take to get involved in the movement to counter fossil ads. 

The problem with aviation advertising

Airline adverts and sports sponsorship promotes flying, enables the industry’s expansion, and attempts to greenwash us into thinking that flying can be green with misleading promises of so-called sustainability. In fact, new research, released by Badvertising, shows that every €1 spent on advertising and sponsorship by Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, RyanAir and Qantas leads to an associated increase in greenhouse gas emissions of between 35-60 kg CO2e.

In the same way that we started banning smoking adverts when we realised the health implications of smoking, in the middle of a climate crisis we need an urgent ban on fossil adverts. This demand – to ban airline advertising – was the central ask of those taking part in the action week with groups targeting local and regulatory authorities across different countries to demand an end to the damaging adverts which prop up this polluting industry.

35 actions across 9 countries

From 15th-22nd April, activists from groups including XR Geneva, XR Netherlands and Brandalism, repurposed approximately 500 advertising sites with creative posters which called out the aviation industry for its damaging greenwashing. Groups from over 30 cities took part in the action week with actions taking place in Paris, London, Geneva, Bristol, Mexico City, Liège, Berlin, Lisbon, Rotterdam and many others. Many groups chose subvertising as a tactic with specially designed posters, translated into different languages, going up across European cities (see image below). Others used the tactic of submitting complaints to the relevant authority, with several submitted to the advertising regulator in the UK.

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One of the posters specially designed for the action week on a billboard in Bristol

Preparation for the week had taken place months earlier with an intro webinar which gave more context about the issue of aviation advertising and sponsorship, information on tactics, and suggestions of ways to take part in the action week. A second webinar following the action week enabled those who had been inspired by the week to get tips on joining the growing movement and offered a space for those who had taken part to share their reflections and learnings.

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A repurposed ad space close to Berlin airport

The action week’s impact

Groups secured a huge amount of local press coverage for their actions with stories in local outlets in The Netherlands, Portugal, the UK, and Germany. Beyond this, DeSmog reported on the action week, as did a number of UK-based trade publications, such as Edie, and the week also featured in the Politico mobility newsletter. Social media was buzzing with posts demanding an end to airline adverts and great visuals from the creative actions. The week was also an important moment for movement building with groups involved in preparation for the week at an early stage. The week also saw new groups taking action against fossil advertising and taking on new tactics as well as securing impressive levels of press coverage.

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News of the action week made it into a number of trade publications

Learnings from a busy week of action

Here are some key take-aways from a busy week of action:

  • The best way to plan an action like this is to start with your target and then identify the best tactic to engage them
  • Different tactics work better for securing coverage from different media outlets
  • Advertising is regulated very differently in each country – it’s worth looking into the situation in your area before planning your action
  • Subvertising makes for really visual, eye-catching actions
  • Organising with other groups provides the opportunity to share insights and practical information

How you can get involved

With the EU having recently started action against 20 airlines for misleading greenwashing practices, now is a great time to capitalise on the conversation that’s currently taking place about the damage caused by airline advertising. Once you’ve identified your target, you’ll want to decide on the best tactic to reach them. Take a look at the tactics toolkit for inspiration on tactics and more information on how to carry them out. Don’t forget to share your successes! The website World Without Fossil Ads brings together information about the movement to ban fossil ads including ongoing campaigns, wins, action groups, research, and toolkits.

If you need any support or information in taking action against airline advertising contact Sara, Stay Grounded on or Hannah, Stay Grounded on