Earth Hour – which takes place March 31 – has grown into the world’s largest environmental event, uniting more than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries.
The result of a partnership between World Wildlife Fund Australia, the brand agency Leo Burnett and Fairfax Media, Earth Hour encourages millions of people to switch off their lights in support of taking action against climate change.
Recently, our Getty Images Curve publication caught up with Leo Burnett Sydney Business Director Claire Kesby-Smith, and asked her a few questions around the campaign.
You can read her full interview here, but in a nutshell, we think the campaign is working because:
1. It’s simple
CKS: “People have the desire to act sustainably but it’s riddled with problems. You do it by yourself, you think it’s difficult, you think I can’t change the world, I’m just one person so you give up on it really quickly. But the beauty of Earth Hour is that it flips those things on its head – it’s symbolic, iconic, collective – something you can be proud of that you can see the impact of and it’s so simple. You can do it for an hour once a year and then people take the time to think of their impact on the environment and that causes behaviour changes. It’s beautifully simple but a lot of thinking went into it.”
2. It has a name that is bigger than action
CKS: “…it’s to be more focused on what people are actually doing, to encourage people to take the time and reflect. It’s not just about potentially decreasing energy, and we get a lot of flak from press about how much energy did we save by turning the lights off. It’s about taking the time collectively to think about our impact on the planet then to make plans for action over the next year.”
3. Images are important
CKS: “It convinces people that collectively, with small changes they can make a difference. It was globally successful and so simple.”
4. Its communications have evolved
CKS: “Social media plays a massive role now more than ever with millions of people online and the conversations that they have, but originally a lot of it was a bit more traditional. It was about getting PR and lots of news programmes covering it. We had celebrity ambassadors getting behind it such as Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett in the first year, that’s how we managed to get a lot of people to buy into the idea. But moving forward, Earth Hour only exists because it is an open source model where anybody can take the branding and run with it in any community up to any scale.”
5. It’s consistent
CKS: “It’s always the last Saturday in March. The campaign towards Earth Hour itself starts to kick off in January and builds in terms of volume of voice in the media. Around March people get really interested in the few weeks leading up to it.”