Brands recruit youth to tell Canada to FLICK OFF

Virgin Mobile, MuchMusic and Roots have teamed up with Environmental Defence and the Province of Ontario in a new cross-country effort challenging Canadians to do something about global warming.

FLICK OFF. That’s the message a new Canadian coalition of brands, ENGO and government are putting out there, geared to enlist people power to help solve the climate crisis. And if you want to save the planet, right now, you need a website. is the centre of a new social program launching today that aims to reduce energy consumption by providing info on what Canadians can personally do to help.

The site also supplies evidence on why this needs to be done now, as in right now, and invites people to pledge to reduce their carbon footprint, and order their own guerrilla action kit. And there will also be a competition. Another, soon-to-be-announced component of the program is FLICK-FEST, a carbon-neutral music fest that will be awarded to the community deemed greenest.

The idea for FLICK OFF came from Key Gordon Communications and Summerhill Group of Toronto, who figured a social movement that encouraged individuals to make a difference through personal energy consumption efforts could be pretty powerful, especially with business and governmental partners. Virgin Mobile Canada, MuchMusic and Roots, who all have great platforms for reaching youth, came on board with plans for getting the word out and help spark action. Youth is the demo identified as very concerned about the issue, and seeking ways to have an impact. Virgin Mobile Canada’s Main Marketing Man, Nathan Rosenberg, describes Virgin’s largely under-30 customer base as ‘the group that will ultimately motivate us all.’

At an early morning press conference in Toronto, to accommodate Sir Richard Branson’s sked (he’s heading off with a doc crew to film global warming impact by sledding across Baffin Island with his son), Branson described FLICK OFF as ‘hopefully not just a Canadian program.’ Referring to the program’s youth-friendly name, Branson smilingly says, ‘It works well in English speaking countries’ – explaining that a French cameraman didn’t get it until he saw the logo. ‘It could work on a global basis, and it’s our goal to make it so.’

Virgin’s eco efforts include funneling all profits from its ‘dirty’ businesses (air and rail) into solving the problem ($3 billion over the next 10 years), and as Virgin Fuels works on green aviation, there’s also the $25 million Virgin Earth Challenge, which Branson says is receiving a lot of ‘interesting’ carbon-neutral solutions. Sir Richard, who is doing his bit, threw down the gauntlet before heading off to Nunavut, saying, ‘So FLICK OFF Canada, and FLICK OFF the rest of the world.’

To start the flicking off, a teaser campaign launches today across MUCH and CHUM stations, showing youth getting the word out via guerrilla efforts, by slapping bumper stickers with the FLICK OFF message on cars and computers. David Kines, VP, Music & Youth Services CHUM Television, says all Much and City assets will support FLICK OFF: ‘Now we’re delivering the most important message of our time using our multiple platforms.’ Much will be integrating content across its sked, and the network’s site will also provide custom FLICK OFF content for youth, geared to sparking action.

Michael Budman of Roots, a long time supporter of the environment – who jokes that over the last couple of months he personally has done ‘a lot of flicking off’ – says the retailer is supporting the program via an organic cotton apparel line to raise awareness. Roots is also selling action kits and bracelets, all geared to literally generating word on the street.

Other participants in FLICK OFF include NOW Magazine, Zoom Media, Butterfield and Robinson, Bullfrog Power, Andora Printing, Pembina Institute and Clean Air Foundation.

Rick Smith, exec director of Environmental Defence, perhaps summed up the urgent essence of the program best, when he described the climate as the crisis of our time, saying ‘We can do something about it, and we can do it right flickin’ now.’