Bell Labs celebrates Big Bang anniversary with innovation campaign

Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent's research and innovation arm, marked the anniversary of a discovery that confirmed the Big Bang Theory.

The Horn Antenna, the instrument used to discover proof of the Big Bang theory
The Horn Antenna, the instrument used to discover proof of the Big Bang theory

Client: Bell Labs/Alcatel-Lucent (Murray Hill, New Jersey/Paris)
Agency: The Hoffman Agency (San Jose, California)
Campaign: The Big Bang Bash
Duration: March 7 – May 20, 2014
Budget: $45,000

In late 2013, the chief technology officer of Alcatel-Lucent, Marcus Weldon, was named president of Bell Labs, the company’s research and innovation arm. Weldon, who joined Bell Labs in 1995 as a postdoctoral researcher in the physics department, is keen to re-ignite the organization’s legacy of cutting-edge innovation.

This May marked the 50th anniversary of the discovery by two former Bell Labs’ researchers and Nobel Prize winners – Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias – of cosmic microwave background radiation, which confirmed the Big Bang theory.

Bell Labs’ and The Hoffman Agency, product and technology AOR for Alcatel-Lucent, developed a campaign that celebrated the milestone and announced the Bell Labs Prize competition, a worldwide open call for innovation.

Strategy
An anniversary event, media relations, social media outreach, and Bell-Labs.com drove messaging.

"Bell Labs has existed for almost 100 years, and it has a tremendous history," explains Wendy Zajack, senior director of communications at Bell Labs/Alcatel-Lucent. "Innovations that have changed our lives, such as lasers, transistors, and wireless technology, were invented at Bell Labs. The anniversary of confirmation of the Big Bang theory was the perfect time to recognize the contributions of Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias and to announce the prize, which continues Bell Labs’ tradition of innovation. Capturing the blend between the history and the future of Bell Labs was critical for Alcatel-Lucent."

Tactics
The May 20 event was hosted in Crawford Hills, New Jersey, on site at the Horn Antenna, the instrument Wilson and Penzias used to discover proof of the Big Bang theory.

Attendees included journalists covering technology, science, and higher education, as well as notable scientists and academics.

Weldon announced the prize competition at the event. Bell-Labs.com, which includes a page detailing the prize, launched the same day.

The team promoted the event on Twitter and tweeted live during it.

A piece penned by the team titled "7 Scientific Discoveries that Happened by Accident" was posted to BuzzFeed’s community board, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and pitched to media.  

A timeline infographic of discoveries leading up to confirmation of the Big Bang theory was also pitched and shared via social media.

Results
Alcatel-Lucent’s stock price increased from $3.83 when NASDAQ closed on May 19 to 3.86 at close on May 21.

Twenty-one Bell Labs Prize entries were submitted within 24 hours of its announcement. As of July 3, entries were up to 77, registrations to submit were at 371, and the prize page had gotten 40,178 views.

"We’re very pleased with the number of entries, the quality of entries, and traffic to the site," Zajack says.

Bell-Labs.com had 88,103 page views between April 30 and early July (55,528 views since the May 20 prize announcement).

Between April 1 and June 3, Bell Labs gained nearly 540 new Twitter followers.

Fifty-five earned placements were garnered in outlets including Ars Technica, EE Times, Gizmodo, New Jersey 12 News, NPR, Space.com, and Scientific American.

Future
The team continues to promote prize news (the winners are expected to be named in December) and will unveil new cross-discipline "Future X" projects throughout the fall.

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