‘Donate your Rebate’ is a simple message from National Energy Action that gives people in the UK the opportunity to, yes, donate their rebate. Essentially, anyone in the UK who doesn't need the £400 energy rebate the government has given citizens this winter can go to the NEA website and put it towards people through the energy crisis.
As a spokesperson from NEA puts it, the organisation’s mission is: “To make sure everyone is warm and safe at home. To support as many people as possible, so no one has to suffer in a cold home. By encouraging those who can afford to donate all or part of their government rebate, we can continue to fund our essential services to help the most vulnerable through this difficult period.”
But tight on money, time and human resources for this proactive, pro-bono campaign conceived by Collective, getting that message across clearly and effectively required some innovative thinking and expertise. LBB’s Alex Reeves speaks to Collective copywriter Zack Gardner to hear how they did it.
LBB> Where did the idea for people to donate their rebate come from?
Zack> National Energy Action had already created #DonateTheRebate, but to stand out against the news cycle and generate broader appeal, they needed a creative hook.
That’s where we felt we could help, with a campaign idea that convinced people to donate without shaming, that promoted the joy in giving, and that spread the warmth.
And that’s how we got to the proverb, “chop your wood it warms you twice” as an analogy for the action we wanted to inspire.
LBB> What were the big decisions near the start of the campaign?
Zack> The biggest decision was to identify and approach National Energy Action with the idea, and then commit agency time and resources towards bringing it to life.
It was an easy one.
Then it was the call to use virtual production. Which for reasons we’ll get into, was the only way to go.
LBB> How did you settle on what the ad would be?
Zack> Same as always…have an idea that we believe in, hope the client agrees and then start making it before anyone changes their mind!
National Energy Action and us both knew we wanted the creative to be undeniably positive. There is a lot of doom and gloom at the moment, and rightly so. But we’re appealing to a demographic who are okay and will continue to be. So ‘honey over vinegar’ felt like the best way to go.
LBB> When did virtual production surface as the solution? And why was it the way to go?
Zack> Right from the off.
Firstly, Pathway, a production facility and virtual art department based in Manchester, were keen to team up and secondly, virtual production alongside Unreal Engine is fast becoming Collective’s bread and butter.
Our idea called for an outdoor shoot, but with typical November conditions and zero fat in our cast, crew and schedule, we needed to maximise our time and not be at the mercy of variables like weather and daylight.
So a practical set, extended virtually and seamlessness through an LED wall was a no brainer. Virtual production let us control the environment, make creative decisions and implement them in real time, and also reduced our carbon footprint by containing the production to one location.
It’s great fun playing god and with VP. You can fix in pre what you used to fix in post.
LBB> What were the most exciting moments during the process?
Zack> Shooting our bird’s-eye views inches away from a camera worth the same as a house with the business end of an axe certainly focused the mind.
But the most enduring memory from the shoot came when we wrapped and the studio lights came back up. It felt like we’d been instantly transported inside without moving an inch. It was a bit discombobulating, but a relief to know our woodland set was that convincing.
LBB> What were the big challenges and how did you overcome them?
When you hear ‘virtual production’, you assume the LED screen will do all the heavy lifting. But our shoot needed a convincing forest floor too.
Which meant leaves. Lots of them.
As we were tight on time, money and human power we ultimately had to bribe a civil servant pay a council park keeper to gather and deliver three one-tonne bags of fallen foliage, only to then pick them up the following day.
Think his name was Russell…
LBB> What has the response been like?
Zack> National Energy Action has seen a really positive response to the film - both internally and externally. As a fairly new approach for NEA in terms of reaching out to ‘cold’ audiences and generating new giving engagement, we have seen a great response in terms of donations, with the average amount at around £98.
LBB> Anything else you'd like to add?
Zack> We’d like to say a massive thanks to Luke Logan-Malik, Pathway and Olive Casting who were just so generous and just so good.
Also - watch, share and donate.
If you’re reading this and can afford to give part or all of your government energy rebate, please, please do.