PR and ad agencies named on COP28 Dubai F-List

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A group of leading PR and advertising agencies have been named on a COP28 F-List, for allegedly helping fossil fuel producer, the UAE, host the COP28, UN climate talks in Dubai.

Clean Creatives, which describes itself as a “movement of advertisers, PR professionals, and their clients cutting ties with fossil fuels” has named 10 major PR and ad agencies which it said has helped promote the tiny Arabian emirate and its hosting of the COP28 event.

The industry body said such involvement goes against the spirit of global media and industry efforts to end fossil fuel use on our planet.

According to its analysis, Clean Creatives claimed that the UAE has cycled through 10 PR firms and ad agencies to promote itself and COP28, with extremely high turnover.

CC’s COP28 F-List:

  • APCO
  • ASDA’A BCW
  • CT Group
  • Edelman
  • FGS Global
  • First International Resources
  • FleishmanHillard
  • Omnia
  • Teneo
  • Viola Communications

“Most of these agencies maintain robust relationships with fossil fuel polluters that make them entirely unsuited to supporting global climate action, and contribute to the deep conflicts of interest surrounding the world’s most important climate meeting”, Clean Creatives wrote on its website.

Leading up to the UAE’s bid to host COP28, ASDA’A BCW was briefed to “rally support and mitigate criticism” because they were “aware that the award of COP28 could trigger a negative reaction and undue attention on fossil fuels.”

Clean Creatives said that, before COP27 even started, FleishmanHillard was hired in 2022 for over $126,500 across various agreements to achieve a “general positive reputational impact for the UAE.”

Then, the campaign for COP28 went into turmoil, the body said. In November 2022, Masdar hired ASDA’A BCW for two years to help with strategic communications for COP28, but their contract was terminated after less than three months.

After this, the UAE made two deals with Edelman in January 2023 to promote Masdar in the US and work on COP28, but Edelman’s COP28 contract was terminated after only four months.

Finally, First National Resources, a five-person crisis management PR firm, was hired for a $132,500 retainer for six months to influence public opinion of COP28 and the UAE in the West, “counteract all negative press and media reports,” and “inoculate Dr. Al Jaber and COP28 from any potential criticism.”

Edelman was later rehired, along with Teneo, to work on the summit.

COP28 has its own in-house communications team led by Alan VanderMolen, an ex-Edelman executive and is working with CT Group, whose team includes former Boris Johnson aide David Canzini.

“The world’s best greenwashing experts are once again hard at work to deceive the public about the UAE’s relationship with fossil fuels”, Clean Creatives wrote.