Climate communications: Why Olivia Colman’s Make My Money Matter campaign went viral

Image: Make My Money Matter

Thousands of business leaders convened in Davos last week for the World Economic Forum’s annual summit. Top of their to-do list this year, as evidenced by the summit’s theme, is rebuilding public trust in the ability of the private sector to work with policymakers in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges including the climate crisis.

This will be no mean feat. Historic climate action failures resulted in the hottest year on record, during which leaders met in an oil and gas state to agree on a path forward. Those with vested interest skewed the mainstream British media agenda away from any calls to urgent action, with conspiracy theories amplified more in newspapers and across social media. On top of this, Artificial Intelligence (AI) breakthroughs are making it ever more challenging for viewers to tell what is real.

Make My Money Matter’s campaign director David Hayman, speaking ahead of his appearance at edie 24 in March (scroll down for further details), has some sage advice for any climate communicators based on his learnings from the ‘Oblivian’ campaign, which highlights how £88bn of UK pensions are invested in fossil fuel companies.

The campaign, starring Olivia Colman as latex-clad oil and gas executive ‘Oblivia Colemine’, proved to be Make My Money Matter’s (MMMM) best-performing by far.

It racked up more than 15 million organic YouTube views within three weeks and prompted more than 70,000 visits to the MMMM website. It also trended organically on X (formerly Twitter), which is particularly noteworthy given the algorithm changes made under Elon Musk.

Hayman said: “It’s both done really well within the climate community and spread far and wide beyond the bubble of people you’d typically expect to be engaged with this type of agenda… I think it struck a chord and resonated with people.”

In creating the campaign with agency Lucky Generals, Hayman explained, his team wanted “to find fun, creative ways to tell that story which people want to listen to – rather than being lectured to about money or about climate change.

“We wanted to bring the message to life in a way that feels like you’re not being lectured at, but talked to like you would talk to friends and family.”

So, the video is free from any jargon.  Staring down the camera with a frenzied expression, wine glass in hand, Colman says: “People like you have pumped billions of your hard-earned cash into our gas and oil businesses. The cash from your pensions has helped us dig, drill and destroy more of the planet than ever before.

“We’ve even managed to build a few little wind turbines to keep Greta and her chums happy. Cute.

“You see, every little drop from your precious nest egg adds up. So while the global temperature may go up a teensy, weensy, degree or two, our profits are soaring. And that’s all thanks to you.”

Pre-empting polarisation

One of the campaign’s top YouTube comments reads: “Words cannot describe just how brilliant this is.”

Another states: “This would be funny if it wasn’t actually true… scarier than a Bond villain.”

But there are, of course, dozens other comments denying any need to shift investments away from fossil fuels for environmental reasons. “Keep drilling,” reads one. “The more the elite tell me to go left, the more I go right,” another states. “Thanks, Olivia, for letting me know that putting all my money in oil and gas is the right thing to do.”

This is to be expected in an increasingly polarised online environment, where pre-election rhetoric from politicians and messaging funded by lobbyists are fuelling misinformation and breeding resistance to progressive change.

Hayman explains that it was equally important to focus on the ethical and financial parts of the issue at hand with ‘Oblivian’, to reach beyond the “climate bubble” as much as possible.

He says: “Fossil fuels got a lot of attention in 2023 – and not good attention. Companies posted record profits despite… bills growing for people. We felt there was something uncomfortable but interesting about personifying these businesses as [Colman’s] character, directly thanking British pension-holders for their contribution.”

MMMM has emphasised that the £88bn that UK pension funds invest in fossil fuel firms is equivalent to around £3,000 per person. This makes the issue personal. It also gets people to think not only about their indirect climate footprint, but about potential future risks related to either transitioning and asset stranding, or physical climate impacts.

Yet ‘Oblivian’ makes no calls to actions for viewers directly. While some people will watch and consider seeking a more sustainable pension fund, MMMM’s work, Hayman says, is “much more focused on shifting the way that the pension industry, as a whole, invests”.

“Getting one person at a time to move their money is a much more long-winded approach,” he adds.

Right people, right time

‘Oblivian’ is not the first celebrity-fronted campaign from MMMM. In 2020, it worked on a similar film with Jason Isaacs, who took on the role ‘Guy Byrne-Woods’, an executive involved in deforestation with his projects buoyed by the support of pension investments. ‘Oblivian’ is a re-do of this concept with a focus on fossil fuels.

Building on this, MMMM teamed up with Kit Harrington and Rose Leslie in 2023, for a video showing a couple’s therapy session in which the actors personify British banks and the fossil fuel industry. This campaign paved the way for MMMM to contact Colman, Hayman explains, with Harrington setting up the line of communication.

Of course, having a well-known and popular spokesperson can help a campaign to go viral, Hayman says. This is particularly true if these spokespeople can “bring their own personality and humour” and are “open to working in non-traditional ways”.

“People wanted to share [‘Oblivian’] because it was good content, not just because it was worthy content,” Hayman explains. In other words, while some shared for the ethical and climate message, most shared because it grabbed their attention.

Nonetheless, amid vast churns of digital content each day and bearing in mind that the general public are attuned to anything they deem to be ‘lecturing’ – especially from those with more money and influence – having a celebrity endorsement is not always enough.

Aside from the points on messaging already discussed, Hayman highlighted that timing is a key ingredient for a successful sustainability comms campaign.

‘Oblivian’ launched two days ahead of the start of COP28, the UN’s annual climate summit in Dubai. This doubtless helped to garner views within the international sustainability community, with minds on the summit but timelines not yet full of live announcements from the ground.

“We leveraged COP28 without being swamped by it,” Hayman says.

November also saw Colman appearing at premiers of ‘Wonka’ across the world. Celebrity journalists naturally felt compelled to contrast slick and sinister Oblivia Colemine with hardy east end innkeeper Mrs Scrubbit. Serendipitously, both characters turn out to have far more sinister motives than they first let on.



Make My Money Matter’s campaign director David Hayman is speaking at edie 24 on 21 March as part of a panel presentation and audience debate on ‘storytelling to save the planet’.

edie 24 is the brand’s largest face-to-face event of the year and will convene hundreds of sustainability and energy leaders in central London on 20-21 March 2024 for two monumental days of keynote speeches, panel debates, unparallelled networking opportunities, interactive workshops and more.

Experts speaking alongside Hayman on this year’s packed agenda include:

  • Chris Packham, renowned naturalist and presenter
  • Chris Skidmore, author of the Net-Zero Review
  • Claire O’Neill, chair of the WBCSD and former UK Minister for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
  • Chris Stark, CEO of the Climate Change Committee
  • Rachel Solomon Williams, executive director of the Aldersgate Group
  • Natalie Belu, co-CEO of Belu and independent candidate for London’s Mayoral Elections

Tickets for the event are available now on an individual, group and sharing basis, with a full price list available here.

With places limited, edie users are encouraged to book edie 24 tickets now. You can secure your place here.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie