The opportunity to work on a public-facing campaign for one of the world’s leading charities can be as daunting as it is exciting.
There’s a weight of responsibility to create something that will not only have an impact (i.e. actually work) but maintain the integrity of a respected brand. The line between creating a campaign that gets noticed a campaign that misfires is a fine one.
These were our thoughts when WWF-UK approached us asking for a campaign to help tackle the destruction of the Cerrado region, Brazil. Most people outside of Brazil haven’t heard of the Cerrado but it’s a pretty incredible place. It covers one fifth of Brazil’s surface area and is home to 5% of all life on earth. The planet needs the Cerrado yet it’s disappearing at a devastatingly fast rate, largely due to the intensive farming of soy.
WWF-UK had been working with soy producers in Brazil to find a more sustainable way of farming. The result was Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) soy. They had the solution – they just needed to convince UK supermarkets to start stocking it. This meant starting by convincing supermarkets most important stakeholders – their customers.
This was WWF-UK’s brief to us – how do we get UK supermarket shoppers to care about a place 6000 miles away from them? And care enough that they would email their supermarket asking them to source a different, more responsible kind of soy.
There were some challenges. Most people in the UK don’t know about the Cerrado – it’s not the Amazon, the Great Barrier Reef or those other icons of nature, even though it’s arguably as important. Added to that was the fact that that most people (ourselves included at the time) didn’t really understand the role of soy – “But I don’t eat much soy” being the common refrain. In truth, the problem is not soy we consume but the massive amount of soy that’s fed to the animals we consume– ‘embedded soy’ as it’s known.
The campaign had to do two things – make people care about a region they’d never heard of, then make it clear what their role in saving it was. Not easy.
With stories like the Cerrado you have to try and find a connection. What do people care about and how can we relate that to the cause in hand? While UK shoppers might not know (or care) about the Cerrado many will know and care about the incredible animals that live there – the armadillo, the giant anteater, the maned wolf. Fascinating, character- full animals whose habitat was being destroyed.
We took the decision to make animals a key part of the story but we wanted to do this in a way that was different to the usual photo of an animal looking sad with an emotive headline. Our initial idea of filming someone dressed as an armadillo walking around supermarkets asking if people would take him home (because his real home, the Cerrado, was being destroyed) was perhaps rightly turned down by the client. It was too silly a campaign for an organisation as serious as WWF.
Instead we designed to make something beautiful and unashamedly earnest. No jokes, nothing too clever. Just a film that showed how precious the Cerrado was and how we – the supermarket shopper – could save it.
“The future of the Cerrado is in our hands” was the message. How to show that the creative challenge.
“Could we recreate the Cerrado out of people’s hands?” one of us asked. “Yeah, probably” the response. This was how we ended up in a film studio in London with a filmmaker from New Zealand and a magician/‘shadow artist’ from Argentina making animal shapes with his hands.
It was as bizarre as it sounds but the result was something really special. A genuinely beautiful, unusual piece of art that told the story of the Cerrado and how we – the supermarket shopper could save it – in 60 seconds.
Films don’t promote themselves, so we put in place a community management strategy to make sure the film and the story of the Cerrado were what people were talking about online. This was supported by other pieces of content, including an infographic showing in simple terms the connection between soy and us.
Still, there’s no guarantee that a film, no matter how lovingly crafted, will resonate with people. Happily this one did. The film received over 160,000 views worldwide, prompted over 28,000 emails to the “Big 7” supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer’s, Co-op and Asda) and helped convince Waitrose to stock only RTRS soy. In a strange turn of events, the film also ended up being shown on Japanese breakfast TV – a first for Neo and WWF-UK.
For us, the success of this film is testament to the importance of craft and artistic integrity.
A good idea is not enough. You need that idea to be realised and made better by artists – animators, musicians, magicians even – who are masters of their craft and will go further and fight harder to create something special. It’s then that an good idea becomes great and magic can happen.