Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Integrated nano campaign by Germany's chemical industry

European companies have learned their lessons from Frankenfood and Magic Nano. Most recently, the Initiative for Dialogue about Chemistry [Initiative Chemie im Dialog], a German industry organization trying to promote a better understanding between the chemical industry and the public, and DDB Düsseldorf rolled out their latest ad campaign, based on the slogan "Chemistry builds future" [Chemie macht Zukunft]. Here's an excerpt from the campaign web site:
"A lineup of ads present fascinating examples to show how emerging technologies will make our lives more comfortable, cleaner, and safer in the future. [...] When researchers improve manufacturing techniques and products, they often use solutions found in nature and simply adjust them to human needs."

"Ein werblicher Auftritt zeigt an verblüffenden Beispielen, wie neue Technologien künftig unser Leben bequemer, sauberer und sicherer machen. [...] Bei der Verbesserung von Produktionsverfahren und Produkten nutzen die Forscher häufig intelligente Lösungen der Natur und passen sie unseren Bedürfnissen an."
Again, Europeans have learned their lessons, relying on the "nano is nature" frame. The implicit argument is simple: Nanotechnology has little to do with manipulating nature or creating new, unnatural substances. Rather, it capitalizes on what has been part of nature for thousands of years and uses it to make the world safer, cleaner, and more environmentally friendly.

The narrative of the ads -- featured in mainstream political and business magazines -- directly feed into this larger frame:
"Thanks to nanotechnology, we will soon have environmentally friendly sources of lighting covering entire walls. [...] And they use significantly less energy than traditional energy-saving lightbulbs. But in order to allow the chemical industry to continue to turn research into successful consumer products, we need a social environment that is open-minded toward emerging technologies."

"Dank Nanotechnologie zieren umweltfreundliche Lichtquellen bald grossflächig die Wände.
[...] [Und sie] werden deutlich weniger Strom als herkömmliche Energiesparlampen verbrauchen. Damit die Chemie in Deutschland ihre Forschung weiterhin erfolgreich in Produkte umsetzen kann, braucht sie ein aufgeschlossenes Umfeld gegenüber modernen Technologien."
Most interestingly, however, a different set of ads also targets opinion leaders and policymakers. They are print ads based on excerpts from interviews with leading scientists, discussing the potential payoffs from investments in these new technologies, and run in political magazines and weeklies.

Here's an excerpt from one of the featured interviews with Nobel Prize winning physicist and co-inventor of the scanning tunneling microscope Gerd Karl Binning:
"How can we promote public acceptance of these new technologies?
It is important to communicate openly and create a basic level of trust in science. We as researchers enter uncharted territory, but we will keep the risks as small as possible. And not being creative and not exploring may be even more dangerous, because it simply means giving in to one's environment. How we want to live is not a question with easy answers. My kids use the World Wide Web, for example, exactly the same way I used to read books as a child. But 20 years ago, nobody thought that the Internet was a desirable new technology."

["Wie kann man es schaffen, dass neue Technologien angenommen werden?

Man muss offen kommunizieren und damit grundsätzlich Vertrauen in die Wissenschaft schaffen. Wir Forscher begeben uns auf Neuland, aber wir werden die Risiken so klein halten, wie es geht. Beschreitet man den kreativen Weg hingegen nicht, kann das gefährlicher sein, weil man sich den Umweltbedingungen ausliefert. Wie man leben will, ist freilich keine einfach zu beantwortende Frage. Meine Kinder benutzen das World Wide Web heute so selbstverständlich wie ich früher Bücher. Vor 20 Jahren hätte niemand das Internet als wünschenswerte Einrichtung genannt."]