Hour DayEarth Day and Earth Hour - both great campaigns we can learn from.
We are increasingly dividing the year to mark symbolic dates: International Women’s Day (March 8th) and Mother’s Day (March 30th) being two recent examples. Tuesday 22nd April, however, is reserved for a different type of special lady: Mother Earth.
Earth Day began in 1970 and was the brainchild of U.S. Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson. The immediate catalyst was an oil spill in California, but the wider social context of anti-war protests and an infant environmental movement made it ripe picking for the Senator.
Google set the tone with its doodle of a Rufous hummingbird, veiled chameleon, moon jellyfish, dung beetle, puffer fish and macaques. This attracted the bulk of the media coverage of the day but the real salute must go to NASA for its Global Selfie campaign.
NASA called on the world to share their selfies which they’ll then turn into a mosaic of the earth. Slightly cheesy, but nevertheless a nice ‘on brand’ campaign by an organisation that makes most people on earth get excited like giddy children at its very mention. If any brand or organisation should lead the charge on Earth Day (that isn’t an environmental campaign organisation) my vote would go to NASA, the world’s space agency.
Earth Day, like the most successful symbolic days, works because it has unity, consciousness and action at its heart. It delegates the action to people and companies to celebrate it in whatever way they like. This freedom is important as it allows the day to be reinvented in many ways but isn’t the only approach.
WWF’s ‘Earth Hour’ calls on the world’s population to switch off their lights for a set hour on 29th March. The campaign has grown year-on-year with cities and towns in 154 countries taking part in 2013 and 162 in 2014. This year they managed to get Spider-Man on board as an example of an ordinary guy making a big difference (another approach could have been Batman with his wealth and resources to shoulder a greater burden, but I’ve heard he was ‘busy’).
Celebrities are also queuing outside WWF offices to lend their support, and brands - as with Earth Day - are launching advertising campaign around the event. My favourite campaign in this camp was by Durex, due to its super simple concept that marries Earth Hour with the brand so well: ‘switch off to switch on’ (the irony of using a Twitter hashtag clearly wasn’t lost on the producers).
The two will continue to grow in the future, as the environment and sustainability remain entrenched as core issues that the public and companies cannot ignore. They’re also interesting to observe as campaigns due to their communicating the same issues but in very different ways: the top-down approach works for WWF because it is a simple action that encapsulates the broader message so well, whilst the democratised Earth Day is a free-for-all of creativity that is comprised of many smaller campaigns. Whichever method you prefer, they’re certainly causes worth backing!