Living Coral, Pantone's Color of the Year, May Not Be Alive for Long

DDB creatives use news hook for an environmental plea

Pantone gets a huge amount of press around its Color of the Year, which it's selected every year since 2000. But this year's choice, Living Coral, has led a pair of DDB creatives to launch a timely campaign around a bleak fact—that the world's living coral is, in fact, very quickly dying. 

The selection of Living Coral by Pantone was meant, in part, to call attention to plight of coral reefs. "In its glorious, yet unfortunately more elusive, display beneath the sea, this vivifying and effervescent color mesmerizes the eye and mind. Lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem, Pantone Living Coral is evocative of how coral reefs provide shelter to a diverse kaleidoscope of color," Pantone said in its announcement. 

But Pantone also waxed all metaphorical in its explanations, suggesting the Living Coral color also "symbolizes our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits" and "embodies our desire for playful expression." 

To Fer Carrión and Rodrigo Bistene, associate creative directors at DDB Chicago—they're also known as The Raccoons—Pantone's point of view wasn't pointed enough. So, they created a color of their own, Dead Coral, which they suggest could well be the Color of the Year for 2043, or 25 years from now, if the coral reefs are debilitated in an irreversible way.

They developed visual assets for Dead Coral that mimic Pantone's own for Living Coral, and are hoping to spread the word about their campaign—though so far, with no media budget behind them. 

"We are originally from Mexico and Brazil, from cities that are intimately involved with their environments and are directly affected by coral bleaching events," Carrión and Bistene tell Muse in an email. "That's why, when we saw Pantone's initiative, we couldn't help to think that, while we appreciate their efforts, current political statements from the U.S regarding climate change make it hard to share the positive and hopeful tone of their campaign." 

They add: "The oceans need action, the problem is real, and its consequences are closer than we think. ... Our main objective is to open the eyes of the public to the fact that 2043 is going to be a dark year for our world if we continue to neglect our coral reefs." 

Carrión and Bistene say they are "very happy with the number of shares and likes" of their campaign so far, given they have invested no money (aside from their time) in promoting it. 

"But we are planning to imitate Pantone by selling merch with the Dead Coral color and donate the proceeds to causes related to the issue," they add. "Also, we are planning to partner with local artists in the Chicago area asking them to use the Dead Coral color to come up with a piece which will probably be auctioned. The proceeds from that will be also donated to causes related to the issue." 

Their goal is not only to bring awareness to the issue but to help promote the work of researchers like Ruben Van Hooidonk and organizations like the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, the University of Miami, UNEP, the World Wildlife Fund, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Coral Reef Conservation Fund. 

None of those organizations were involved in the Dead Coral campaign, but the Coral Reef Alliance did get in touch with Carrión and Bistene to thank them for their efforts. 

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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