Case Study: Refresh Britain, an integrated campaign fighting clean air and transport misinformation

Clean air is an important issue for climate. But it hasn't always been top of the list for everyday Brits.

We set out to change that with a UK-wide campaign for our ACT partner Refresh Britain.

Working alongside Refresh Britain, we developed an advertising campaign based on the insights they had gathered on how to increase positive sentiment for clean air across the UK.

In this case study we’ll explore how you can make a climate topic something personal and drive effective change among Persuadable audiences by doing so.

Read on to understand:

  • Crafting a compelling campaign message
  • Measuring the impact between a test and control audience
  • How to take learnings forward into your campaign planning

The Campaign: Making Clean Air a Compelling and Personal Issue (Without Compromise)

When thinking about air pollution, air quality, and the routes to cleaner air, people often think about all the things they must do less of; for instance, driving petrol cars, flying less, and eating less meat. Acting on this environmental problem feels like a lot of compromise with little benefit to their daily lives. Over the last year, in particular, these assumptions and concerns have been further accentuated (See: controversies around 15-minute cities and other UK transport policies).

With this campaign, we set up to shift this narrative.

We developed a strategically simple message: clean air doesn’t come from personal sacrifice – driving less, doing less, seeing less. Instead, we showed how daily activities are made better with higher-quality air.

One straight-to-the-point and benefits-focused message propelled our campaign forward: Cleaner Town. Cleaner Air. Better Life.

Creatives reflected happy families in our target areas. 

A core insight behind our messaging was that clean air made towns better places to live and meant that Persuadables could have more pride in where they live.

Leveraging local pride is a great way to make campaigns more compelling; it grounds the issue in our Persuadable audiences’ realities, driving more meaning than when we try to talk about broad concepts or buzzwords.

We used a mix of traditional and digital media, a combination that is key to effectively balance driving reach but also building trust.

The campaign ran across four locations, based on areas that the campaign’s research had found Persuadables amongst voters: Blackpool, Stoke-on-Trent, Boston & Skegness, and Chatham & Aylesford.

Through impactful creative, we spoke to our Persuadable audiences and used images that we hoped to reflect the local areas and real people, making our message more engaging.

Looking at the bigger picture, we wanted to make cleaner air a popular issue among everyday people. Why? The more people believe that cleaner air is a right – something good and easily achievable – the more likely it is that politicians will adopt it.

The Results: 70% of exposed audience said they were ‘more or much more’ engaged with the topic of air quality 

To measure the effectiveness of our campaign we used a conventional AB testing approach between exposed and unexposed audiences.

Questions were asked to two audiences: A) people in the four target constituencies where the ads ran, and B) a control group based on an audience with similar attributes.

The results were in, and it was clear that this campaign shifted the dial on engagement with clean air issues.

Our ads reached more than 1.2 million people and of those who saw the campaign, there was a direct uptick in engagement on the issue.

  • 70% said they were ‘more or much more’ engaged with air quality.
  • When asked if ‘change that benefits me can happen’, 76% of people who were aware of the campaign agreed, compared to only 42% of those who didn’t see the campaign. 
One singular message was repeated, driving memorability and impact. 

We also effectively spoke to Persuadables, and the results showed that even among the unexposed audience the campaign was appealing: 54% of Persuadables found the campaign very appealing, and this number increased to 78% amongst those aware of the campaign.

And rather importantly for our misinformation narrative, we also learned that those who saw the campaign were 12% less likely to interpret air quality as a ‘self-sacrifice’ issue. 

The Learnings: How you can take our findings forward 

Now, there is a lot to be learned from our campaign on cleaner air. But if you take away three things for your next campaign: 

  1. Find a misinformation narrative and develop a compelling reframe. Example:
     - Misinformation narrative: Clean air would be great. But it means I need to give up my car. 
    - Reframe: We all deserve clean air, and it’s something that will make our towns better – not worse!  
  2. Represent your audience in the creative 
    - We went through several rounds of creative development before this work went into the wild. We found that the most compelling creative included people and faces. Try to reflect your audience where you can. 
  3. Use a mix of media channels and formats to drive reach, trust, and impact. 
    - Our campaign ran across four media formats: OOH, local press, social media (X and Meta), and digital display. 

What do you think of our campaign for cleaner air, are there learnings you’ll be taking forward into your projects? Share your thoughts with us, and don’t forget to get in touch if you’re interested in running a campaign together.