The Alliance for Climate Protection "Reality"

Crispin Porter + Bogusky


The task was close to impossible: Discredit clean coal, a coal-industry invention being marketed as a cheap, abundant fuel that solved global- warming pollution. Clean coal was brilliant: It made people feel good, safe, proud to be an American. Every major politician, liberal and conservative, was singing its praises. There was one problem: it didn't exist.

In an environment of endlessly complicated science and politics, we used cognitive science insights to reframe the debate around a simple human truth: people abhor being lied to. We created a consumer brand, Reality, to expose clean coal as a lie, nothing more than a marketing term. The goal was to take the emotion engendered when people learn they are lied to and spark conversation.

Within months of Reality's launch, clean coal had become the subject of raging debate in the press and culture at large. Public perception of coal as a problem —rather than a solution—shifted by double digits. The repercussions continued as the United States finally debated clean energy with an accurate understanding of what coal was and wasn't —an issue that ultimately impacts climate change and the very future of the planet.