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The Energy Transition

The Energy Transition

Natasha Smith

Natasha Smith

April 22, 2019

Energy giant BP finds a future-forward, eco-friendly solution for its OOH campaign.

"We created a series of OOH ads that were entirely powered by the sun. No need for backlights, no need for electricity."

Jonathan Lee, Associate Creative Director at Havas People, explains how BP is meeting an energy need for its ad campaign with an innovative (and clever) solution.

How does the campaign tie into the mission at BP?

The world is growing like never before and, as the world demands more energy, it also demands that it be produced and delivered in new ways, with fewer emissions and in ways that are more affordable. BP is embracing this dual challenge, and this idea highlights that challenge in a simple way. It’s a brand awareness piece that got its message out in a new way.

Describe the brief that was given to your team at Havas People?

This idea wasn’t really a response to a specific brief, but more the overarching challenge that BP faces. To support the energy transition, BP needs to attract new talent—professionals from very diverse areas who probably haven’t even considered the company as a place to use their skills. So that’s tech, digital, data, and so on. People who have this ability and desire to approach things from a completely different angle.

Tell us about the campaign.

So we created a series of OOH ads that were entirely powered by the sun. No need for backlights, no need for electricity. Just a traditional poster in a traditional OOH site. During the day it looked like a normal poster—though there was science stuff going on as I’ll explain—and then as night fell it began to shine.

As simply as you can, describe the science behind the billboards.

It’s all about the inks the posters were printed with. Simply put, the pigments in the inks contain phosphors. During the day the phosphors energize themselves with daylight, and then, at night they slowly release that energy. That’s what the human eye sees as a glow. Of course, glow-in-the-dark stuff has been around for decades. But this isn’t like a glow-in-the-dark sticker that lasts a few minutes and then doesn’t work again. This is about finding inks that can charge quickly and emit slowly, repeatedly, day after day, night after night. We played around a lot with color combinations to make sure the glow was as bright as possible.

Outdoor advertising powered by sunlight is an interesting choice for an oil company. Why’d you take this approach?

The answer is in your question really. People just assume that BP is an oil and gas company, but the reality is they are leading the energy transition to more sustainable forms. To get that message across to our audience, we have a choice. We can either tell our audiences what BP is doing, or we can do something far more powerful and demonstrate it—which is exactly what this was.

"When we presented it, [BP] said, 'You have to make it happen,' which was brilliant. As a creative, you love that kind of response."

Any behind-the-scenes glitches that you had to solve?

The biggest challenge was really a logistical one. For the ads to be at their most effective, you want them to be in an area that gets plenty of natural sunlight during the day but is very dark at night. Not too many street lights, building lights, and so on, allowing the ads to properly shine. So finding those locations was the initial challenge. But on top of that, there’s no point in having the ads in locations where the audience that we are after is not going to see them. Our media team did a pretty incredible job of finding those sites.  

Did the folks at BP have any reservations about the idea?

It was the opposite, really. When we presented it, they said, “You have to make it happen,” which was brilliant. As a creative, you love that kind of response. If anything, the reservations may have been more on our side. I’m sure a few people were thinking, “OK, Jon, you had this idea; we hope you are now going to tell us how to make it happen.” I didn’t have all the answers, but together we found them.

What is the ultimate message of this campaign?

If you have the ability, and enjoy solving problems in new ways, you might just love helping us tackle one of the world’s most complex challenges.

Who is BP speaking to?

The audiences that we target cover many different personas and groups, the aim of this campaign was to target people with some crossover behaviors, such as a sense of purpose, curiosity, open-mindedness to name a few. So, you can see how our idea captures the imagination of those kinds of people.

How’s the campaign been received so far?

Ninety-nine percent of it has been really positive. There’s the odd comment that all we’ve done is create giant glow in the dark posters, which totally misses the point. It’s what we’re using it for. There are tens of thousands of OOH displays in the UK; they all need electricity. As we’ve proved, maybe they could just use the sun instead? In most people’s eyes, that’s pretty clever.

"We created a series of OOH ads that were entirely powered by the sun. No need for backlights, no need for electricity."

Jonathan Lee, Associate Creative Director at Havas People, explains how BP is meeting an energy need for its ad campaign with an innovative (and clever) solution.

How does the campaign tie into the mission at BP?

The world is growing like never before and, as the world demands more energy, it also demands that it be produced and delivered in new ways, with fewer emissions and in ways that are more affordable. BP is embracing this dual challenge, and this idea highlights that challenge in a simple way. It’s a brand awareness piece that got its message out in a new way.

Describe the brief that was given to your team at Havas People?

This idea wasn’t really a response to a specific brief, but more the overarching challenge that BP faces. To support the energy transition, BP needs to attract new talent—professionals from very diverse areas who probably haven’t even considered the company as a place to use their skills. So that’s tech, digital, data, and so on. People who have this ability and desire to approach things from a completely different angle.

Tell us about the campaign.

So we created a series of OOH ads that were entirely powered by the sun. No need for backlights, no need for electricity. Just a traditional poster in a traditional OOH site. During the day it looked like a normal poster—though there was science stuff going on as I’ll explain—and then as night fell it began to shine.

As simply as you can, describe the science behind the billboards.

It’s all about the inks the posters were printed with. Simply put, the pigments in the inks contain phosphors. During the day the phosphors energize themselves with daylight, and then, at night they slowly release that energy. That’s what the human eye sees as a glow. Of course, glow-in-the-dark stuff has been around for decades. But this isn’t like a glow-in-the-dark sticker that lasts a few minutes and then doesn’t work again. This is about finding inks that can charge quickly and emit slowly, repeatedly, day after day, night after night. We played around a lot with color combinations to make sure the glow was as bright as possible.

Outdoor advertising powered by sunlight is an interesting choice for an oil company. Why’d you take this approach?

The answer is in your question really. People just assume that BP is an oil and gas company, but the reality is they are leading the energy transition to more sustainable forms. To get that message across to our audience, we have a choice. We can either tell our audiences what BP is doing, or we can do something far more powerful and demonstrate it—which is exactly what this was.

"When we presented it, [BP] said, 'You have to make it happen,' which was brilliant. As a creative, you love that kind of response."

Any behind-the-scenes glitches that you had to solve?

The biggest challenge was really a logistical one. For the ads to be at their most effective, you want them to be in an area that gets plenty of natural sunlight during the day but is very dark at night. Not too many street lights, building lights, and so on, allowing the ads to properly shine. So finding those locations was the initial challenge. But on top of that, there’s no point in having the ads in locations where the audience that we are after is not going to see them. Our media team did a pretty incredible job of finding those sites.  

Did the folks at BP have any reservations about the idea?

It was the opposite, really. When we presented it, they said, “You have to make it happen,” which was brilliant. As a creative, you love that kind of response. If anything, the reservations may have been more on our side. I’m sure a few people were thinking, “OK, Jon, you had this idea; we hope you are now going to tell us how to make it happen.” I didn’t have all the answers, but together we found them.

What is the ultimate message of this campaign?

If you have the ability, and enjoy solving problems in new ways, you might just love helping us tackle one of the world’s most complex challenges.

Who is BP speaking to?

The audiences that we target cover many different personas and groups, the aim of this campaign was to target people with some crossover behaviors, such as a sense of purpose, curiosity, open-mindedness to name a few. So, you can see how our idea captures the imagination of those kinds of people.

How’s the campaign been received so far?

Ninety-nine percent of it has been really positive. There’s the odd comment that all we’ve done is create giant glow in the dark posters, which totally misses the point. It’s what we’re using it for. There are tens of thousands of OOH displays in the UK; they all need electricity. As we’ve proved, maybe they could just use the sun instead? In most people’s eyes, that’s pretty clever.

Natasha Smith is the strategic communications manager for Havas Group. She happily represents 404 in the 212.

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