Is Cara Delevingne's 'Industrial Emissions Face Mist' Utopian or Dystopian?

It's both! And the mantra 'Water, Water, Water' drips from her lips

Swedish energy company Vattenfall is working with Nord DDB to promote an "Industrial Emissions Face Mist,” which you can see here, lavishly spritzing Cara Delevingne’s face:

Remember when Evian started punting facial spritzes? At first it felt like a piss-take—water sold back to us, in yet another iteration. Then it felt a little luxurious, like: I’m spritzing my face with Evian! Then it just became one more thing some people threw in their beach totes.

There's something of that weird witchcraft here. The ad's function is to vibe like some delectable luxury pitch. But it's actually trying to sell us on a better future, one we can share if we aspire just enough. "Fossil-free living within one generation," the closing line says.

The mist is a bombastic way to promote hydrogen as an energy alternative to fossil fuels: Imagine that! Emissions so clean you can spray them on your face, because it’s just water.

"Water, water, water." Delevingne repeats this dramatically, evoking both the reflexive belief that water is plentiful and clean, and the uncomfortable awareness that we are facing a growing problem of clean water scarcity, from which the U.S. is far from exempt. (Remember the Flint water crisis? That’s still happening.) So we give a slight Hunger Games shudder as she walks, forever dewy, through what looks like a futuristic hydrogen plant, lavishing in all those delightful H2O emissions.

It's the kind of place we can imagine ourselves being locked out of by tech robber barons when climate urgency hikes the temperature up a notch, and we're all scratching at each other from thirst.

Last year, Vattenfall partnered with steel purveyor SSAB, and mining firm LKAB, to inaugurate HYBRIT, a partly government-funded pilot facility for fossil-free hydrogen gas storage. The pilot will run through 2024, paying host to tests for replacing goods and utilities that typically rely on fossil fuel.

This is a significant move. Hydrogen’s long history as a potential fossil-fuel alternative is complicated, fraught with pessimism about how much it can really help. (It can’t undo the climate crisis on its own. You basically need whole-systems transformation and a dramatic rethinking of the economic system—incidentally the root of the clean water shortage—to turn this big dirty boat around.)

But the ad’s immediate function is to spark hope, and maybe inspire other big industrials to partner up as Vattenfall did to launch HYBRIT. "I think the main goal with this is to make it easier for people to understand what fossil fuel-free hydrogen is and how clean emissions can be," Nord DDB's Jacqueline Hellstedt told AdAge. 

The campaign will run on TV, digital, social media, and out-of-home over the next two months. While the face mist isn’t for sale, Vattenfall actually did work with organic cosmetics brand c/o Gerd to create a limited supply of 50mL bottles, to show that fossil-free hydrogen emissions are indeed clean enough to spritz on your kisser.

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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