This December, a group of global leaders from 192 countries will converge in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15), one of the most critical environmental summits in recent history. But as the U.N. quickly discovered as they started to publicize the event, not very many people, even those who were interested in the issues at stake, knew that COP15 was happening. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reached out to a group of marketers and advertising creatives to help the COP15 become top-of-mind for those who cared about the cause, with the hope that greater awareness would help the summit achieve a more positive outcome.
Marketing a climate change event in itself was another challenge. With the audience burned out on stories about apocalyptic sea levels, the team needed to make this message feel different. The timehook–the fact that this event is only a few months away–was a important way to make action feel urgent, and also more real. “This is a real deadline,” says Williams. “There is a concrete date in a real place. It’s not just a climate change campaign, it’s tied to a real thing.” They used the countdown as motivation for people to rally around the cause as soon as possible, and to show their support in a highly visible way. “What we thought was important was that we could create the sense that the people are watching,” says Williams. A campaign began to form around the concept of public accountability, for both the audience and the attendees.
Of course there’s no better way to show your support for a cause nowadays than to place it on your Facebook page or as a Twitter status update. But the team wanted to transcend the typical social media experience. They created easily shareable social media memes like the Facebook Passport application where people could accumulate stamps, which lent to the idea of having people publicly declare themselves as citizens of Hopenhagen. Through the Web site, the campaign encouraged the audience to spread the word about Hopenhagen using Web banners and emails that directed people back to a petition. Users signing this petition are effectively granted “citizenship” and a message with their wish for the planet is placed over their city on an interactive map. “People can go to the site, sign up and share with friends, get a Passport and let us know if they have ideas to help make this the
success it needs to be,” says Williams. They need to engage creatively to help swell the
The site also called for its audience to create “mass demonstrations of support,” documenting
and sharing those demonstrations with Hopehagen’s team, to achieve a widespread feeling that this was a worldwide movement. This was the moment the word Hopenhagen transcended a typical brand: It became something that the people started to see as their own. As the name quickly took hold in Denmark itself, a football team rebranded themselves Hopenhagen for one match, even redesigning their uniforms. A flash mob was organized for the town square of Copenhagen, where people marched into the square and peeled away their clothes to sunbathe in October as a way of demonstrating global warming. “It is exciting to see the popular movement begin to take off,” says Williams.
The city of Copenhagen likes the idea so much that they want to use it for their tourism
campaign, and an event space in the town square will be called “Hopenhagen Live.” A recent press release announced that in December, the city
will be changing a great deal of the city’s signage to Hopenhagen.
With Cop15 still 48 days away, it’s difficult to get a sense of any kind of metrics from the campaign. “Of course, a measure of success would be real change happening,” says Williams. “We are remaining optimistic that a deal can be reached and our advisors tell us that nothing is set in stone until the final moment so we will aim to keep the momentum going right till the end.” We are trying to create a people’s movement so world leaders feel the momentum and are inspired to act decisively and achieve an agreement, says Williams. “In spite of downbeat expectations in the media, we are remaining optimistic that a deal can be reached if the will exists.” But if the outcome from the summit is not positive, the group will have to re-evaluate its long-term strategy beyond COP15.
But at least one unintended outcome has resulted from the use of the now-charged word “hope.” “Are people going to think it’s too close to Obama?” Williams remembered wondering when they decided on the name, which was around the time of the presidential campaign. Now ‘hope’ is working in their favor: There’s now another viral campaign which has lauched, trying to convince President Obama to go to Copenhagen. “We have put the Hopenhagen idea out into the world and now we need
everyone to take it and run with it,” says Williams. “We cannot do this
alone; it will take all of us to create the level of noise to convince
leaders we care.”
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