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April 4, 2008

Nigel Scott: Change is easy ? maintaining it is the real challenge

For about the past 18 months, Out of the Blue Communications has been involved in one of the most inspiring, exciting and terrifying projects of its 10-year existence as an experiential communications agency.

The project? Future London.

The challenge? We had to inspire, educate and engage with the widest target market possible – Londoners – and get them involved in a drive to make the city a more sustainable and ‘green’ one. How could we try and distil the huge scope of this project into an experience that would achieve this? We started with a blank sheet of (recycled) paper and went from there.

Footprints of a Generation was the result, an interactive eco-installation comprising six interactive ‘arenas’ designed to inform and challenge Londoners’ attitudes to the environment by demonstrating how making small changes, such as recycling waste or buying locally sourced food, can make a positive impact on the environment.

Practical creativity
An additional challenge was to make the experience itself as green as possible. For example, not only did we find FSC-approved suppliers for timber and, therefore, know that we were buying from certified sources of responsible forest management, we also used only standard 8 x 4 sizes for the most part, rather than cutting the timber. Not very exciting, not very creative, but when you realise that every cut you make uses both power and increases wastage, you start to change your mind.

Footprints of a Generation saw tremendous success during its time at the Old Truman Brewery and the Science Museum, with the event subsequently recycling itself into a mobile exhibition that was taken to the Scoop, the Ideal Home Exhibition, Liverpool Street station and Canary Wharf. By the end of the activity, almost two million Londoners saw the Future London campaign.

Time for action
But the big question now is ‘what next?’ Consumers are desperate to find out what they can do; how they can play their part in this green revolution. The time for talk is now over. The subject has reached saturation point. It’s now a time for action.

There is no other discipline that can engage and motivate the public to actually change their habits and make a positive environmental choice. There has been a lot of talk about the demise of traditional advertising, which, if we’re all completely honest, is not really ever going to happen. It is still required to deliver real brand stature and awareness. But what it cannot deliver is a real call to action that stays with the consumer and makes them reconsider their lifestyle.

Experiential marketing, on the other hand, delivers this in spades. It’s a misconception that this channel is all about entertainment. We have found, through various Out of the Blue campaigns, ranging from Future London to The Campaign Against Prostrate Cancer, that experiential is an incredible educational tool as well.

Maximum engagement
Only when people are fully engaged in a subject will their minds switch to ‘educate’ mode and enable them to take in a message about change. An experience can actually put the tools into their hands, show them how easy the little steps to change are, and lead them down the path to making a difference. It makes an intangible subject practical. It can allow the consumer to try something once, making it more likely that they’ll try it again. It helps it all make sense and brings direct relevance to their lifestyle.

The ‘going green’ message is out there loud and understood we now need to actually change people’s habits. Experiential agencies have a real opportunity to move this message forward and lead the way.

Nigel Scott is creative director at experiential agency Out of the Blue Communications

Related Stories
GREENER FOOTPRINT: Is this the most sustainable event yet?
GREENER FOOTPRINT 2: The key to a green event
SPECIAL BREW: What makes East London’s Old Truman Brewery a truly different experience

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