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Case Studies


WWF ‘Earth Hour’ International PR campaign

 WWF ‘Earth Hour’ International PR campaign

This work from Leo Burnett, Sydney – for WWF’s Earth Hour – won Best International PR Campaign at the Cannes Lions 2009.


In 2007 Earth Hour was responsible for 2.2 million people in Sydney turning off their lights for 1 hour. Then in 2008, 50 million people worldwide took part.

In 2009 it was time to turn the symbol of switching off the lights for Earth Hour into real action against global warming.

To achieve this we targeted a meeting of world leaders in Copenhagen this December, which will determine if policies are made to take action against global warming. We set ourselves an ambitious target – reaching one billion people.

Our creative idea was to transform the light switch into a vote – and hold an election between Earth and Global Warming, with the goal of presenting the votes to world leaders as a mandate for change. A reported one in seven people worldwide switched off their lights to make their voice heard as a global vote for action.


To make Earth Hour the largest environmental movement in history, we set ourselves an ambitious target of reaching 1 billion+ people, across 50+ countries and over 1000 official cities.

We needed to unite people of the world regardless of their age, race, religion, gender or social standing. But first, we needed people to believe that switching off their lights could make a real difference.

Research showed that interest in the environment went down between 2007 and 2009, with people supporting the economy over the environment. What’s more in 2009 we faced the highest levels of scepticism about global warming in more than a decade.


Our communication strategy was to transform the light switch into a vote, and hold an election between Earth and Global Warming. We asked the world to Vote Earth by switching off their lights for Earth Hour, with the goal of presenting the votes to world leaders in Copenhagen, as a mandate for change.

To launch the campaign with maximum PR, we enlisted the support of Shepard Fairey – the creator of the iconic imagery for Obama’s Presidential Election campaign – to provide imagery for our campaign.

The Vote Earth message was launched just 3 weeks after the inauguration of Barack Obama. We also created stunts to give the story momentum and maximise coverage. We approached high profile supporters to commit to the cause to amplify the PR.

We also made Earth Hour a truly open source to maintain the contagious nature of the campaign and to rally further support in the build up to Earth Hour as a global vote.


The Vote Earth campaign was created in 4 stages:

The Candidate: With Earth as our candidate we created a global election campaign across integrated media channels including TV, outdoor, print, direct, online, stunts, live events and ambient media.

The Voters: Next, we created a Vote Earth website (in 35 languages) where people everywhere could download and locally adapt campaign material such as stickers, window posters and online banners for use in homes, shops, restaurants, offices, schools and websites.

The site also featured Earth Connect, a social networking application developed in collaboration with Google, to help spread the word. Election Media: We then enlisted the support of Vote Earth ambassadors such as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Yvo de Boer, Coldplay, Georgio Armani, Francesco Totti, Kevin Rudd, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and even web icon Obama Girl.

The Vote: And finally, on March 28th, the world voted.


Earth Hour became the largest social movement in history:

• Over 4000 cities across 88 countries took part including China, India and the Middle East for the first time. 1059 world icons switched off.

• 18 of the G20 countries, and 34 of the C40 cities participated.

• There were 87 million online mentions with 300 per second during the 24hr period of Earth Hour.

• Earth Hour was the No.1 topic on Twitter and YouTube on the day

• The campaign reached over 1 billion people.

• World media generated immeasurable unpaid PR - approximately $11m in Australia alone.

• A reported 1 in 7 people switched off their lights as a global vote for action.

To see a video of this case study, play the link below.

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