Cannes Lions

Pigeon Air Patrol

DIGITASLBi, London / PLUME LABS / 2017

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Last year, almost seven million people died from diseases caused by air pollution. 9,400 of those deaths were in London—a city that exceeded its full-year EU air pollution limit for 2016 by January 8th 2016.

Environmental technology specialist Plume Labs is leading the industry in developing data-driven, tech-based tools that help people control personal exposure to air pollution and improve their health.

However, air pollution is an invisible threat. People can’t see when they’re putting themselves in harm’s way. And because the science explaining the issue is complicated, it’s a problem that can be challenging to grasp and easy to dismiss.

The objectives of this project were to raise awareness of the health risks people face due to poor air-quality in London and make Plume Labs a leading voice for change. The success of this project would also help Plume to crowdfund research and further develop its technology.

Our approach was to use Plume’s technology to personalise air pollution for Londoners. We used hyper-local data to explain the risks of poor air quality exposures, making pollution a problem too relevant to ignore.

Core to this strategy was collecting air quality data while making it instantly available to the public. Twitter was central to demonstrating that pollution is everywhere, all the time, and that levels vary by location—even from street to street.

Twitter was also ideal for spreading the conversation fast¬—from individuals to a broader audience.

However, we still needed a newsworthy way of collecting and distributing data.

The idea: The Pigeon Air Patrol.

Ten pigeons were fitted with custom backpacks containing Plume’s unique and ultra-portable air quality monitoring technology. Over three days, these avian air patrollers were released across London during rush hour.

The Patrol monitored air-quality in real time—sharing results live on Twitter as they flew. Anyone tweeting @PigeonAir received an instant update on pollution from the nearest Patrol pigeon in their local area.

The two key things pigeons allowed us to do were:

i) Easily uncover data, using Plume’s technology, during times when pollution levels are the most toxic—when London is otherwise gridlocked.

ii) Quickly deliver localised pollution data in an engaging and newsworthy way, while giving Plume the social license to be a part the debate.


– $4.5 million secured in seed funding

– Crowdfunding goal exceeded inside 3 days

– 93% of those who engaged said they cared more about air pollution as a result (Figure 1)

– 2,000+ news stories globally in titles including The Evening Standard, Time Out, The Guardian, ITV, Metro, New York Post, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, The Independent, Forbes, BBC News, Fast Company, Sky News

– 667 million+ impressions

– 40,000 #PigeonAir mentions

– Facebook Trending Topic

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