Last year’s #ziek campaign from the German Ministry for the Environment – complete with sex and zombies - caused a stir in the German media. But what did it achieve exactly? And what will climate protection campaigns look like in the future? Berlin hosted Europe’s biggest conference on internet and society last week, the re:publica 2015, and RESET was in attendance. Laura, from our German team, appeared on stage with Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, and asked her a few questions about exactly that.
At the end of 2014, RESET attended a blogger meet-up organised by the German Ministry for the Environment (BMUB) to discuss the ministry’s inventive new #ziek campaign. Short for “Zusammen Ist Es Klimaschutz” (loosely translated as something like “Putting it all together, we can protect the environment”), the #ziek campaign was a modern, online project developed by the German Ministry for the Environment, that used short, funny videos to raise awareness of climate protection. Last week it was time to find out how that campaign has been developing, when our German team attended the digital conference re:publica 2015.
First and foremost: the campaign definitely got a lot of media attention.With 30-second video clips about catching your parents having sex, and zombies wandering around your back garden, the channel garnered nearly 3 million clicks on youtube.
Michael Schroeren (Press Officer for the German Ministry for the Environment), Sebastian Backhaus from the sustainability publishing house Fairkehr and Julia Mussgnug from the advertising agency Tinkerbelle analysed the results of the campaign. So what was the final outcome? Well, not only were there lots of clicks, but at the same time there was an increased number of Google searches using the term "climate protection". A definite thumbs up from us for getting the message out there to the general public!
From information to action! But how?
As representatives of the blogging world, our colleagues from the German RESET team were invited by Florian Semle from the sustainability portal Utopia to take part in the discussion about the campaign. We gladly took him up on his offer, and here are the questions we asked:
How do you make the step from a campaign to real action among the general public? Basically: How do you go from words to deeds?
Barbara Hendricks: When it comes down to individual citizens, we can’t do anything apart from make appeals to them. We can obligate certain industries to commit to specific types of behaviour, but we’re not here to be checking up on people. We’re not going to send officials into people’s houses to make sure they’ve turned the lights out. So there’s nothing more we can do than hope that we spark their imaginations and make a connection with them somehow. And in the case of many people, that has already happened. We’ve noticed a distinct change in the way people get around. Especially in big cities of course, because a suitable public transport system has an important role to play in that.
How does that look in terms of the economy? Do you have any campaign ideas there?
Barbara Hendricks:Of course, in that area we can initiate things by taking legislative measures. Right now the main focus is on the so-called coal fee (the planned policy in Germany for coal-burning power stations to have to pay a fee for exceeding a certain production limit, in an attempt to make their energy more expensive and decrease C02 levels). How will we deal with power stations in the future that emit extremely large amounts of CO2? That’s something that we can legislate for. And in that kind of situation, a campaign can promote understanding among the public. They might be worried about a loss of jobs, or their local area undergoing drastic changes. You can accompany something like that with a campaign.
Florian Semle then asked what her political colleagues had to say about the campaign, and Mrs Hendricks gave us the inside scoop.
Barbara Hendricks:The climate campaign certainly attracted the attention of my colleagues too. The Chancellor also spoke to me about it. That information will have come from the chief press officers, who must have then gone on to tell their bosses about it. Because to be honest, we're hardly online ourselves at all - we hear about things from other people. And that’s how the campaign spread.
So, summing up? It’s a cool campaign, and by reaching so many people, it’s one that can have a big impact too, even when plans for real-life action still seem to be on the back-burner. And with #ziek part two coming up, in the form of a relaunch, we have to admit we're pretty pleased.
What would we like to see in the future? Maybe ministers could start surfing the web of their own accord sometimes, so that politics and the internet don't stay strangers to each other.
To take a look at by far and away the most popular video from the campaign, check out the clip below. The voiceover at the end says "The world says thank you! If all households in Germany reduced their energy use by 5%, we could completely shut down one coal-burning power station."