Repower America, the name of a plan touted by Gore, is the centerpiece of an organization he founded called the Alliance for Climate Protection. That wonkish name is better known as “we”—as in the “we campaign” launched in early April 2008. Promising to make a three-year, US$ 300 million commitment to solving the climate crisis, Gore poured his own financial resources into the advocacy campaign, acquired private support, and is partnering with such organizations as the Girl Scouts and United Steelworkers of America to get the message out in a big way.
Before any of that could occur, there was a need for branding. Gore enlisted brand identity expert Brian Collins of the firm Collins in New York to create a logo. But rather than design a traditional corporate identity for the Alliance, Collins focused on “we” as a symbolic representation of the fact that everyone was in this together. The execution was a relatively simple graphic—the word we in a vivid green circle—with one distinctive difference: the lower case “w,” when turned upside-down, is an “m.”
Collins explains it this way: “What's good is that the idea of ‘me’—and personal initiative—still lives inside the idea of ‘we’” (“Al Gore’s New Logo,” The New York Times, April 6, 2008). Collins had a new typeface designed so he could accentuate the unusual dual letter.
Then came the “we campaign,” which the Alliance says is “an unprecedented commercial-scale, mainstream mobilization effort designed to bring public opinion past the tipping point and convince elected leaders to take bold action.” The campaign sets out a three-part strategy: a multimillion-dollar multimedia ad campaign, online engagement and activation, and working with partner organizations across the political spectrum. The goal is to “enlist an unprecedented 10 million citizens as climate activists” in three years.
The we campaign made a splash in print, on television and online, even as American news was dominated by the Hillary Clinton–Barack Obama Democratic primary battle. Two of the more provocative ads depicted polar opposites sitting on a couch together. One ad showed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, aside former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a Republican. In another, the Rev. Al Sharpton, a black populist minister, cozies up to Pat Robertson, a white evangelical preacher. The point is that these people, though on different sides of the spectrum, agree on the need to do something about the climate crisis.
The couch motif was repeated with ordinary people holding signs representing opposing perspectives—“blue collar” vs. “white collar” and “burgers” vs. “tofu,” for example. The message that accompanied these graphics was blunt: “It’s American to disagree. It’s also American to come together in the face of a challenge.” The ads encouraged individuals to join “we” by visiting www.wecansolveit.org.
More recently, the we campaign has focused on the Repower America agenda, whose goal is to have the country utilize 100 percent clean energy within ten years. The Alliance created a TV ad that focused on renewable energy and was critical of oil companies. The Alliance tried to run it on the ABC television network during election season but claimed it was refused airtime. Close to a quarter-million supporters have petitioned ABC to run the ad.
Despite its considerable resources, the Alliance for Climate Protection has not been without its challenges and critics. The we campaign came on the scene when other competing environmental causes were already contributing to a high noise level, creating confusion rather than clarity. And then there was the all-election-all-the-time media coverage that made it virtually impossible for any other story to be heard.
There has also been controversy surrounding the brand. Al Gore’s personal use of energy-inefficient resources has been criticized. And even some environmentalists are disgruntled, claiming that the Alliance isn’t directly addressing real actions that consumers can take. As one example, the Smart Growth America blog said: “…it’s discouraging that the most well-known climate advocate running the most well-funded climate advocacy campaign doesn’t see encouraging more people to live in places where they have to drive less as an obvious—and simple—solution.”
Nevertheless, the well-funded we campaign continues its push for change, emboldened by the Obama campaign’s successful use of social networking and volunteer activism.
While the Alliance expects the new president to be sympathetic to its cause, the organization will continue the we campaign to promote advocacy and outreach. The reason, the Alliance says, is because its real goal is “stimulating a cultural shift around this issue. Unfortunately, our leaders won’t take the bold steps necessary until the American people demand real change.” Interestingly, that was the primary message of Barack Obama’s campaign. Look where it got him.