Campaigns case study: Petrol substitute is certainly not hot air

In 2011, Durham-based Air Fuel Synthesis developed a small prototype device that could synthesise a petrol substitute using carbon dioxide and hydrogen obtained from air. AFS now needed funding to take its device into production.

Fuel steam ahead: Air Fuel Synthesis’ substitute petrol system
Fuel steam ahead: Air Fuel Synthesis’ substitute petrol system
Campaign    Making Petrol from Air
Client           Air Fuel Synthesis
PR teams     In-house and Win Marketing
Timescale    June-December 2012
Budget         £7,000

  • To persuade technical media and influencers that the AFS process and management could offer a commercial, viable sustainable fuel for the future
  • To attract potential investors
  • To achieve wider general public awareness of the AFS process as a serious alternative to fossil fuels

Strategy and plan
AFS realised it needed industry recognition before gaining broader public awareness, to provide assurances that the process did work, that it was sustainable, that it was a real alternative to fossil fuels and commercially viable.

The campaign launched with articles linking AFS to high performance vehicles in the technical press. The AFS team arranged visits by industry influencers, politicians and potential investors.
Environmentalist Jonathon Porritt and Tim Fox, from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), effectively became brand ambassadors.

As a result of Fox’s enthusiasm, it was decided to launch the AFS process at the IMechE conference.  Win Marketing wrote a press release announcing that AFS had made petrol from air and circulated it to science reporters on national newspapers. The story took off immediately and was covered initially in The Independent and The Daily Telegraph. Within 24 hours, AFS and Win were inundated with calls from
national and international media, tweets, Facebook messages and website enquiries.

To maintain momentum, Win developed separate news angles for the local media both in Teesside, where the demonstrator plant is, and in Leicestershire, where the original founder was based. Social media presence was maintained and online questions were responded to. An FAQ sheet was developed and posted on the AFS website.

Measurement and evaluation
By the end of the first week, more than 2,600 publications and news channels worldwide had featured the story. The AFS website saw traffic grow by 12,000 per cent.

Win had to increase the capacity of the AFS website memory to ensure it did not crash under the massive increase in visitor traffic. Social media activity continued to grow, with the level of Facebook activity up by a factor of ten, while the number of Twitter followers tripled and a video linked on Mail Online gained more than 25,000 views during the month.

Since the campaign, AFS has secured a match-funded £300,000 grant through the  Low Emission Transport Collaborative Project Fund. The company is also in the final stages of negotiations with an as-yet-unnamed investor. AFS has also been working with sustainable motor sport company Quimera to develop sustainable motor sport fuels.

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