Campaigns: Earth Hour 2009

Targeting the Copenhagen summit, the 2009 Earth Hour initiative turned the symbolic act of switching off lights into real action against global warming.

Earth Hour
Earth Hour

Editor's Comment: A deserved winner of Campaign of the Year at the 2009 Asia-Pacific PR Awards, Earth Hour successfully integrated varied communications channels to deliver genuine behavioural impact.

Campaign Earth Hour 2009

Client WWF

PR team Leo Burnett Sydney

Markets Global

Timescale March 2009

Budget US$44,400

Earth Hour first ran in 2007 as an initiative to spur people to turn their lights off for one hour. The 2009 version of the campaign focused attention on the Copenhagen Climate Change summit, targeting the meeting as an opportunity to take concrete action against global warming.


-      Convince people to believe that switching off their lights could make a real difference.

-      Spur people to turn off their lights, presenting the action as a vote for earth.

Strategy and plan

A global election concept was developed, inviting people of all races, ages and nationalities to ‘Vote Earth'.

This then proceeded in four stages. The first stage positioned Earth as the candidate, creating an election campaign across TV, outdoor, print, direct, online and live events.

The next stage focused on the voters. A ‘Vote Earth' website was developed in 35 languages, where people could download and adapt campaign material such as stickers, window posters and online banners. The site also featured Earth Connect, a social networking application developed in collaboration with Google.

The third stage targeted the election media. A range of Vote Earth ambassadors were enlisted including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, fashion designer Giorgio Armani, Coldplay, footballer Francesco Totti and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Finally, on 28 March, the world voted.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign generated 87 million online mentions, tallying 300 per second during the 24-hour Earth Hour period. It was the top-ranked trending topic on Twitter and YouTube on the day.


Over 4,000 cities across 88 countries took part including, for the first time, China, India and the Middle East. 1,059 icons switched off, including the Eiffel Tower, statue of Christ, The Strip in Las Vegas and the Pyramids in Egypt.

In terms of PR value, the campaign generated $11m in Australia alone. A reported one-in-seven people switched off their lights as a global vote for action.


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