As a member of AJR, I have been playing live shows and putting out records for over a decade. Music will always play a large role in my life, but I’ve found great purpose in using my voice as a vehicle for change in human rights and sustainability. As I near the end of my PhD in International Human Rights and get further involved as a United Nations Development Advocate, I’ve begun to look ahead at what more I, we as AJR, and others can be doing to better our planet.
AJR has engaged in a considerable amount of activity for social good, including organizing voter registration tables with March for Our Lives at our concerts, donating the proceeds of an original composition to [2020 presumptive Democratic nominee] Joe Biden’s “It’s On Us” initiative, and offsetting our tour’s carbon emissions. We choose airlines like Delta, which has strong commitments to carbon neutrality, and food providers like Chipotle, which supports local farmers.
When I hit 50,000 followers on my Instagram, I removed 50,000 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere in honor of AJR’s fans. My brother and bandmate, Ryan, encouraged fans to plant trees for his birthday and saw over 10,000 trees funded in a single day. However, if we were looking to achieve more sustainable action, it became clear that we needed a more integrated solution.
A year and a half ago I started a non-profit called Sustainable Partners, Inc. (SPI) to expand our sustainability work to other artists and brands. SPI has launched endeavors with the United Nations, iHeart Media, and Live Nation, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, and educated millions about the importance of sustainability.
One of SPI’s initiatives is called Time For Change. SPI makes it easy for brands to participate in sustainability efforts while advertising on social media. Brands who work with SPI attach a concise message to the bottom of their social media ads, promising to perform a sustainable act for each viewer who watches a given ad in entirety. Such acts include planting a tree, pulling plastic from the ocean, and providing school supplies to children in need, among others. The idea is simple; social media users feel good about it, brands feels great about it, and the world benefits. Win, win, win.
After a number of smaller test-projects, the first large-scale Time for Change campaign used the ads for AJR’s upcoming Everything Everywhere Tour. For every person that watched the ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat from start to finish, we planted a tree. After four weeks, it had become the most successful ad campaign in the band’s history.
On Facebook and Instagram, the number of people watching the entire ads was six times the average—on Snapchat, 30 times the average. Additionally, of those that completed the ad, over 70% clicked through to the ticketing page. These numbers are multiples above the industry average. In its first month, we planted 100,000 trees and sold 100,000 tickets for our upcoming tour. The campaign set up a mutually beneficial relationship between AJR and the environment.
Off the back of this hugely successful campaign, SPI has partnered with advertising giant McCann to bring Time For Change to more artists and brands, with the goal of improving their digital strategies. We all spend an abundance of time on the internet looking for entertainment, and sponsored content is an inevitable part of the experience. That experience is a new opportunity for individuals, artists, and brands to make real, concrete and sustainable change.