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7 Dec, 2020 11:47

You can't have good eco reporting & harmful adverts, says Greta Thunberg while guest editing paper, as issue runs full-page BMW ad

You can't have good eco reporting & harmful adverts, says Greta Thunberg while guest editing paper, as issue runs full-page BMW ad

When teen activist Greta Thunberg lent her name to a top Swedish newspaper, guest-editing an issue on climate change. Many were surprised that it featured a BMW ad, which played on her campaigning to tout its green credentials.

Thunberg technically was the editor-in-chief of the special 58-page Sunday issue of Dagens Nyheter (DN), Sweden’s largest newspaper. The 17-year-old eco-celebrity’s actual input was limited, she said on Instagram, but she did offer some suggestions and feedback, “such as that you can’t have serious reporting on climate and environment while at the same time run ads harmful to climate and environment.”

Considering this and Thunberg’s overall uncompromising messaging on climate change, many readers were surprised that one of the ads featured in the issue was by German automaker BMW. The full-page ad showed a sign resembling the one that the activist held during her “school strike for climate” campaign a few years ago. It proudly reported that BMW was ranked as the world’s most sustainable carmaker by Dow Jones.

DN manager Martin Jonsson said the newspaper is in the process of changing its ad policy to be more climate-friendly, but “it will not be ready until next year.” He confirmed that Thunberg reviewed all the ads in the issue before publication.

While some Swedish marketing experts believe the ad to be “cocky” and a “smart move” by BMW, others said it may become a liability for the company. Even people who found the special edition’s content important and urgently needed, found the ad “distasteful”. The company latching on to Thunberg’s fame is a “reputation parasite” that should “keep its diesel-stained fingers away from Greta”, one commentator wrote.

Quite a few negative reactions flew in the face of the newspaper itself, with people saying that apparently it was interested in hard cash more than in saving the planet, despite printing the themed issue. Some questioned why Thunberg found nothing wrong with the ad.

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Thunberg's environmental campaign had distant ties to the German automaker in the past. Her famous wind-powered trip across the Atlantic to attend a climate change conference in New York last year was done on a yacht provided by Monaco-based Team Malizia. The club counts BMW as one of its major sponsors, though the activist insisted that her sailing was a purely non-commercial free ride for the cause.

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