The ‘Oblivia Coalmine’ ad by Make My Money Matter: a good example of climate change communication?

Oblivia Coalmine gets climate comms right by using a household name as a trusted messenger to tell us that our pension funds are being funnelled into fossil fuels. But is it just yet another climate narrative of doom, gloom, and despair?

Tabitha Whiting
6 min readDec 8, 2023

Make My Money Matter is a campaigning organisation working to shift our financial system away from profiting off fossil fuels and towards investments that build a socially and environmentally just future.

The latest Make My Money Matter campaign focuses on pensions.

The video at the centre of the campaign features Olivia Colman as ‘Oblivia Coalmine’, a power-hungry oil executive who thanks us all for continuing to fund their sky-high profits via our pension providers’ investments in the fossil fuel industry.

So, does the Oblivia Coalmine campaign work well as a piece of climate change communication?

Let’s take a look.

A few reasons why the Oblivia Coalmine campaign is a great example of climate change communication

The use of Olivia Colman as a trusted messenger makes the Oblivia Coalmine campaign a strong example of climate communication.

Historically, there has been very little trust involved in communicating climate change. From fossil fuel companies fuelling denial to politicians placing blame on individual citizens to climate scientists whose scientific jargon is hard to decipher, the voices producing most of the messages on climate change have been some of the least trusted — making it less likely that audiences will believe and act on the messages they hear.

Using a household name like Olivia Colman to spread a climate-focused message means it’s likely to go further and reach audiences that might not usually engage with climate communications.

“I hope everyone who sees this ad realises the shocking — but unintended — impacts of our pensions and makes their money matter. It really is one of the most powerful things we can all do to protect the planet.” — Olivia Colman

This is evident in the extensive press reaction to Oblivia Coalmine, with the campaign winning coverage in traditional media outlets like the Telegraph and Independent, as well as reaching pensions-specific media outlets like Pensions Age, sustainability-focused media like Sustainability Beat, and even the climate deniers over at right wing media GB news.

It helps also that Make My Money Matter was founded by well-known film director Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral to name but a few), adding a second household name into the mix.

This use of well-known names to increase the impact of climate change messages has started to gain traction, a great example being the ‘Climate Science Translated’ video series by Climate Science Breakthrough which features comedians like Nish Kumar and Jo Brand explaining important concepts in climate science in a fun and accessible way.

But, other than Olivia Colman’s involvement, what else makes the Oblivia Coalmine video effective as a climate comms piece?

  • A simple message and one that outrages. Pensions and how financial instutions invest and profit of them is a pretty complex topic to get into. But, the campaign keeps the message simple and memorable for a general audience, not being tempted to go into depth on the ins and outs of how pensions and investments work, but instead focusing on the injustice of our hard-earned pensions being used for no good.
  • Creative use of satire. The campain uses satire as its core lever, poking fun at the greasy executives of the corporate world to bring light to a very real issue. In doing something different to the norm of both sustainability marketing campaigns and the greenwashing campaigns of the fossil fuel industry, it stands out in a good way.
  • Putting the blame back on those profitting from climate change. Too much of the climate change narrative has been commandeered by the fossil fuel industry. The video effectively exposes the oil and gas industry’s greenwashing marketing techniques through its script to emphasise the point that it is those extracting and burning fossil fuels for profit who are to blame and who are continuing to find shady ways to continue filling their pockets (like benefitting from our pension funds). My personal favourite script line is: “We’ve even managed to build a few little wind turbines to keep Greta and her chums happy.”

And a few reasons why the Oblivia Coalmine campaign isn’t all good…

Whilst there are undoubtedly many successes to point out in the Oblivia Coalmine campaign by Make My Money Matter, there are also two big downsides that are worth highlighting alongside them:

  • It’s yet another ‘doom and gloom’ climate narrative
  • The campaign was produced by Lucky General creative agency, who have worked with some *questionable* brands previously.

The problem with doom and gloom climate narratives

Climate communications often centre around a narrative of loss and despair. We’re all used to seeing images of extreme weather disasters or polar bears clinging onto icebergs, with language of battles, fights, and emergencies.

Think of the WWF’s tendency for a ‘once it’s gone it’s gone’ message on wildlife conservation – like their #lastselfie or love it or lose it campaigns — for example.

That’s all true and factual and important.

But, it isn’t always conducive to action.

Fear and hopelessness can be motivating, but only if there is room for the audience to act and solve the problem. But most climate change comms doesn’t leave room for solutions, for what the alternative could look like.

“People stop paying attention to global climate change when they realise there is no easy solution for it.”

A Study of Popular Concern about Global Warming, Krosnick et al, 2006

We need to see climate change communications that move beyond that doom and gloom narrative and which also paint a picture of what a brighter future could look like if we manage to minimise climate change — the pull factors that inspire and motivate audiences to act.

So, in this instance, what if our pensions were no longer invested in fossil fuels? What could that mean for society?

The problem of climate change campaigns by advertising agencies

Make My Money Matter partnered with a creative agency to produce the Oblivia Coalmine campaign.

That isn’t necessarily a problem in itself.

But, creative agencies work with many brands. And as the Clean Creatives campaign shows us, it’s common for creative agencies to work on oil and gas campaigns — or with other brands that are actively doing harm to the environment.

And this is true in this case.

Make My Money Matter worked with Lucky General.

They’re by no means the worst offender in the advertising agency world — you won’t see them on this year’s Clean Creatives F-list — but they certainly have profitted from some campaigns that are highly questionable in terms of both environmental and social impact, like:

  • Virgin Atlantic: airlines are almost as bad as oil and gas when it comes to greenwashing
  • Princes Tuna: we all know from Seaspiracy that there’s no such thing as sustainable fishing, and tuna is one of the worst offenders for killing dolphins and other marine species
  • Amazon: no words are needed to explain why they’re a bad guy
  • Betfair Gambling: there’s no such thing as fair gambling.

And that’s to name but a few.

So, there are certainly improvements to make.

But, regardless, it’s pleasing to see climate change communications campaigns hitting the headlines and see celebrities backing important campaigns — so perhaps, in this case, the pros outweigh the cons.



Tabitha Whiting

Exploring the good and the bad of climate change communication and sustainability marketing 🌱