Campaign: Environment - Harnessing the power of low-energy

Campaign: The Great British Light Switch
Client: Cool nrg
PR Team: Bite Communications
Timescale: November 2007-February 2008
Budget: Undisclosed, but estimated at around £35,000

Cool nrg is an ethical organisation dedicated to taking action on global warming. Its aim is to install energy-saving light bulbs in 50 per cent of global residential homes by 2010. Bite was brought in for a four-month project billed as the UK's largest ever consumer energy-saving light bulb giveaway: The Great British Light Switch, which was implemented for Scottish and Southern Energy.


To maximise publicity through a promotion in The Sun newspaper. To give away 4.5 million free energy-saving light bulbs across the UK in one day.


Cool nrg brokered a relationship between Scottish and Southern Energy (the campaign sponsor) and The Sun newspaper to distribute the 4.5 million energy-saving light bulbs, as part of an integrated campaign. The Bite team used research on consumer behaviour to put together fact sheets and story angles for the features editor.

But Bite realised more exposure was needed to give away so many light bulbs; a tricky problem as The Sun editorial team forbade Bite from speaking to any other titles before the promotion.

The agency spread the programme across the stable of News International titles. It brokered an agreement with the promotion department at The Sun that saw News International titles run daily editorial and promotion pieces in the week running up the launch.

Additionally, The Sun was persuaded to help get celebrity endorsements, including Alistair McGowan and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

As part of the wider integrated campaign, Bite needed something visual, so it picked one of the UK's most iconic industrial buildings as a backdrop: Battersea Power Station. Giant images of energy-saving light bulbs were projected on to the power station with the campaign name, illustrating the contrast in energy production since Battersea Power Station's time and the importance of energy efficiency in tackling climate change.

The projection also served as a photo backdrop for the campaign and, owing to the close proximity of the power station to many of UK's busiest train stations (Victoria and Clapham Junction), it enabled the image to be seen by hundreds of thousands of commuters.

The day before the launch, Bite held a regional radio day and promotional material was handed out at branches of Asda, Tesco and Morrisons.

Bite and Cool nrg also entered the giveaway into the Guinness Book of Records, aiming to have it recognised as the world's largest light bulb giveaway.


The regional radio day resulted in 15 pieces of regional coverage and there were 55 pieces of coverage across all media, including five days' promotion and editorial in The Sun, and corresponding promotions in News of the World and thelondonpaper.


The Sun's circulation increased by 408,000 on distribution day, and all 4.5 million light bulbs were distributed, creating a Guinness World Record. Once installed, these will shave up to £20.25m from the UK's domestic electricity bill, and slash 350,000 tonnes from the UK's carbon dioxide emissions.

SECOND OPINION - Richard Rawlins, managing director, Finn Communications

A perennial challenge for any consumer PR consultancy can be the all-agency meeting. There is a certain inevitability that the advertising or sales promotion agency will complete their presentation with the dreaded: '... and the beauty of this promotion is that it's really PR-able. We reckon it'll make News at 10.'

The client, nodding furiously, turns to the PR agency and the gauntlet is laid down.

The conversation in the taxi back to the office would have been along the lines of: 'It's a freebie for readers of just one title, for goodness sake!'

Don't get me wrong; giving away 4.5 million energy-saving light bulbs in one day, saving £20m from the nation's electricity bill and 350,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere is PR gold. But here's the rub.

The offer was exclusive to Sun readers and it was such big news that the editorial team needed to keep the whole thing secret. Which is why Bite's campaign should be applauded: it highlights why the future is so exciting for our profession. Only PR people could have the initiative, flexibility and creativity to turn such a tough challenge into a great opportunity. Only a PR agency has the skill to use a limited budget to maximise a campaign which, on the face of it, is a traditional media partner sales promotion.

By understanding the editorial agenda, Bite integrated influencer endorsement, media relations, stunts and sampling to great effect. Certainly no other type of marcoms agency would have considered that the Prime Minister could be persuaded to support the campaign.

This campaign is a triumph of the PR profession's innate initiative and creativity. For once, the sales promotion agency would have been right about 'PR-ability', not that they'd anything to do with it.

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