CAMPAIGN: Darkness illuminates climate concerns

This summer, Lights Out London saw thousands of businesses and individuals take action for climate change by switching off non-essential lights and appliances across the capital between 9pm and 10pm on 21 June.

Campaign Lights Out London
Client Capital 95.8 (GCap Media)
PR Team Futerra Sustainability Communications and Capital 95.8 in-house team
Timescale May–June 2007
Budget Under £10,000

Objectives
To obtain widespread coverage across national and London media. To encourage Londoners from all walks of life to think about climate change. To raise awareness of the small ways in which individuals can effect change.

Strategy and plan
Lights Out London was inspired by Sydney’s Earth Hour – an hour-long switch-off on 31 March, which cut energy consumption in the city by ten per cent. Targeting prominent landmarks to sign up was central to the campaign, both to encourage individuals to follow suit, and to create a visual impact.

People responsible for iconic buildings, including the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Canary Wharf office blocks, were persuaded to participate, as were the operators of the London Eye and the Piccadilly Circus advertising lights, which had remained lit since World War Two.

National and London media were targeted with a launch press release, followed by a series of releases highlighting new sign-ups to the campaign, and supported by striking photographs of iconic institutions taking part.

Celebrity support helped engage audiences not normally associated with environmental action. Denise Van Outen, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake recorded soundbites for Capital explaining how people could make a difference. ­London Mayor Ken Livingstone also ­endorsed the campaign.

As well as turning off lights, Londoners were urged to do something out of the ordinary during the hour of darkness. A series of restaurants hosted candlelit dinners during the event and the Capital radio station staged an acoustic concert featuring Mutya Buena, Róisín Murphy and Ross Copperman.

A website was created, outlining steps individuals can take to counter climate change, and encouraging people to post their own energy-saving tips and ideas for events.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign secured more than 80 pieces of coverage, including a double-page spread in The Observer and ­articles in Metro, thelondonpaper and the Evening Standard, while The Sun ­featured a picture Page Three model ­Keeley Hazell inside a light bulb, with the strapline ‘Turn off to turn me on’.

Widiane Moussa, thelondonpaper’s environment reporter, said: ‘Lights Out London was perfect for our green ­pages: it had a strong environmental line and was well supported by quotes from a range of celebrities and public figures, including the Mayor.’

Results
Three million Londoners are believed to have switched off non-essential lights and appliances, resulting in a saving of around 750 MW of electricity in just one hour – enough to run 3,000 ­televisions for a year.

SECOND OPINION

Sue Fletcher (l), head of media, British Energy Group: GCap Media shone the spotlight on the hugely important issue of climate change, which most of us acknowledge, but few know what to do about. This London-based campaign showed people a simple yet show-stopping way of taking action.

One of the campaign objectives was to raise awareness of the small ways in which Londoners can effect big change. The bid to turn the lights out for an hour was a simple but compelling demonstration of the power of electricity in propping up modern civilisation. Achieving lights-out along the full length of Oxford Street would have been even more exciting but the London Eye and Piccadilly Circus were a good start.

Choosing to do this in the early summer with its long, light evenings was perhaps not ideal timing – a cold, dark December evening would have had a much more striking impact. The impressive list of supporting celebrities delivered the message to a mainstream audience, while the media campaign succeeded in keeping the momentum going.

The ‘unplugged’ concert and candlelit dinners were inspirational.

There was a certain irony about the fact the mediumthat ran this campaign – radio – would be switched off if the predicted energy shortfall becomes a reality. If GCap does repeat this on a dark, winter evening, why not offer wind-up radios as prizes to individuals who shine out as examples to their neighbours? And how about an alternative to  the Christmas lights switch-on – the big Christmas switch-off?

I congratulate GCap Media on a clever and creative campaign that helped Londoners understand that their small actions can make a difference to this important global issue.

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