Why Renault Created a Billboard that Reacted to Pollution Levels – in Realtime
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The Publicis Romania team talk to LBB’s Laura Swinton about how they combined creativity, media, data and e-commerce to boost Renault’s electric cars in Bucharest
“For us, super-crowded is normal. That’s the most dangerous thing, that we’ve grown accustomed to it. The air smelling funny.”
Bucharest is Europe’s most congested city and the second most polluted city. But for locals, crowded roads and toxic air have become the new normal. Gabriel Gherca is a Group Creative Director at Publicis Romania, and he, like many of those living and working in the city, had become accustomed to the smoggy streets crammed with cars, barely moving at a crawl. “But then you hear about the European Union planning to fine the whole country because of pollution. Or emissions being sometimes ten times over safety levels. Then you realize it: maybe rush-hours being all-hours isn’t normal? Or the air making you cough is not OK, either.”
And so when Publicis Romania’s Renault client came over with a brief for their electric car model, the Zoe, the product had a personal resonance for everyone at the agency who had to experience the city’s polluted air. Renault was keen to market its electric cars in Romania, where the market for such technology is still relatively young. As Gabriel’s fellow Group Creative Director Romulus Petcan explains, joining the dots between electric cars and the city’s toxic air came naturally.
“The idea was in the air, so to speak,” says Romi. “Living in Bucharest, you would see someone on your Facebook timeline posting ridiculously high pollution levels, measured maybe two blocks away from where you live or work. So, what can you do? Holding your breath isn’t an option. Putting more electric cars on the road – that might be something. So, what’s stopping drivers? The price. Hey, maybe we can link pollution and price. Not bad. And from there, the campaign started taking shape.”
In the end, the team came up with the DiscO2unt Billboard, a huge digital display on one of the largest digital displays in Europe (the Cocor MediaChannel) that reacted, in real time, to pollution measurements across the city. The higher the pollution, the lower the price – linked to a mobile landing page that would allow potential customers to claim the lower price.
Before they could get started, they needed to make sure that the client was on board – but the Renault team saw the potential straightaway. Of course, they didn’t want to give the cars away for free, so the team established a maximum and minimum number between which the price would vary. “In the end, everyone from the client side – marketing, sales, legal – came together to make the idea happen,” says Romi. “Doing something different is never easy.”
It’s a project that involved some complicated collaboration across a number of parties and platforms, from creative to media, data to e-commerce. And of course, the clients and dealerships had to buy into the idea that the price would come down.
“We brought a lot of people around the table, that’s for sure,” recalls Romi. “First thing was to find the right place to put up the billboard, so we had lots of talks with media. We knew we needed to go with digital displays, but had to find the right mix. We considered using many smaller displays, but in the end decided against it. They didn’t give us the visibility we wanted. So, we chose the biggest one, in a high-traffic, high-emission area. Afterwards, we needed the algorithm to convert pollution data into discounts. We used in-house programming solutions, always working closely with the client –to define the interval of the price variation, for example. The whole system was linked with a mobile landing page (e-zoe.ro), where people could instantly claim the current price. So, there were a lot of moving parts involved.”
There was a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes to create an experience that had to feel seamless. Air pollution sensors fed data into an algorithm converting emissions into – and these discounts were updated every six minutes on a billboard that’s not made to handle responsive layouts. And on top of that the user experience had to be slick and seamless.
Though this is a campaign that is ultimately a promotion, the team also have a longer play in mind. Given that the market for electric cars is still very much in its infancy in Romania, they want to get the Renault brand in that space early. “We’re playing the long game: building awareness, addressing barriers (like price; most drivers consider electric cars expensive, without knowing how much they even cost) and, when time comes for mass adoption of electric vehicles in Romania, Renault will be on drivers’ shopping lists,” says Gabe.
Jorg Riommi is Chief Creative Officer Publicis Groupe Central & Eastern Europe and Publicis Romania and he notes how the project fits into Publicis Groupe’s wider strategic goals. “I’m happy and proud of this piece for Renault, which brings to life in the most creative way the Publicis Groupe’s commitment to deliver data driven ideas in media, innovative digital and mobile to our biggest clients. It’s the innovative use of technology and data that will make the difference for our clients in the years to come.”
As for Gabe, he’s enjoyed working on something that will not only help the client but has the potential to tackle a problem that he and his fellow citizens of Bucharest have to inhale every day. “It’s always fun to turn technology into something more human and tangible.”
Jörg Riommi – Chief Creative Officer Publicis Groupe Central & Eastern Europe and Publicis Romania