HELSINGIN SANOMAT, Helsinki / HELSINGIN SANOMAT / 2020
Helsingin Sanomat is the leading newspaper in Finland, and largest in the Nordics by subscriptions. Its purpose is to make important matters interesting to the public and act as a counter-power to indifference. Within that role, it also has an essential societal role in holding those in power to their responsibilities.
We’re living the hottest era of recorded history and the threat climate change poses on life on our planet is undeniable. While people are making smaller and bigger changes in their daily lives, the real impact in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions resides in political decision-making. That’s why in the fall of 2019, Helsingin Sanomat wanted to encourage politicians to make concrete decisions for mitigating climate change.
The pen has always been the journalists’ weapon of choice in bringing about change in the world, but only in policy-makers’ hands it has the power to truly fight climate change. So, Helsingin Sanomat decided to present decision-makers with a pen, but not just any pen. For the gift to work as intended, it needed to be a tangible reminder of the acute state or our planet. Enter the Climate Pen – A pen designed to resemble coal, with ink made of carbon dioxide, given to decision-makers as a call for climate action.
In September 2019, the pens were donated to Finnish MPs and G20 leaders. A multi-media advertising campaign was built around the donation, consisting of print, TV and digital advertising.
While people are making smaller and bigger changes in their daily lives, the real impact in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions resides in political decision-making. By directly confronting them with a tangible reminder of immediacy for climate action, we hoped to encourage them for reforms that have a lasting impact on our planet.
The media strategy was two-fold consisting of a direct campaign aimed at policy-makers, the Climate Pen passing the message of climate action immediacy, and a mass-media campaign that put more pressure on policy-makers and made the initiative known to the general public.
The core medium of the campaign, the Climate Pen, was directly tied to the desired action. The call to action was to sign new policies that aim at slowing down climate change. The Climate Pen reminded them of the need for action and was a direct tool with which to put these initiatives in motion.
The pen’s ink was produced from CO2 by decomposing the molecules into carbon and oxygen atoms with intense heat. The resulting carbon black was then mixed with water and arabic gum thus producing the finished custom ink.
The pen itself was designed to resemble a piece of coal through shape and coating related design choices: The shape was inspired by the polygonal structures naturally present in coal, while maintaining an ergonomic grip when used. The black, grained and shockproof coating furthered the association.
To minimize conflicts with sustainability considerations, the design was made reusable with interchangeable ink capsules. The mechanics were ordered made-to-measure, allowing the construction of a simple opening and closing mechanism. The pens were 3D printed from recycled aluminum, reflecting the high quality and dignity of the pen. This ensured both durability and longevity.
A total of 250 Climate Pens were produced. All production emissions were compensated.
The campaign gained 25 million impressions in earned reach* and generated a 2,5-fold increase in the willingness to buy towards the Helsingin Sanomat brand compared to annual average**.
The campaign was highly noted in its direct target group, the policy-makers. A number of Finnish MPs noted the gift on social media, and Mr. Emmanuel Macron sent a personal thank you letter to Kaius Niemi, The Senior Editor-in-Chief of Helsingin Sanomat.
More importantly, the Climate Pen encouraged Jari Myllykoski, MP at the Finnish Left Alliance, to sign an initiative aiming to increase the amount of carbon sinks, i.e. forests and vegetation, in Finland.
** Source: YouGov continuous brand measurement – willingness to buy – under 45-year-olds target group