Behind the scenes…
of Meridian’s ‘Nature’ campaign: A lesson in the art of attribution
…of Meridian Energy’s bold new ‘Nature’ campaign with The Monkeys Aotearoa. Viewed as one of the most sustainable brands in New Zealand in the Kantar Better Futures report for eight years now, Meridian found itself in the enviable position of being able to build on its reputation as a ‘doing’, rather than a ‘saying’, brand. This meant attribution was the name of the game. The new campaign enlists the help of ‘Nature’, a character who represents the natural world, to inspire environmentally conscious behaviour. With her tempestuous powers and a healthy dose of good humour she rewards or disciplines actions accordingly. This long-term brand platform establishes Meridian’s leadership position in renewable energy, investments in decarbonisation and commitments to initiatives such as the DOC Ka¯ka¯po¯ Recovery Programme. Michael Healy, Meridian Energy’s Chief Marketing Officer, says as the company has been providing 100 percent renewable energy since it began, this campaign marked “a bit of a reset moment for us”. “We have got a healthy brand, we’ve got healthy consideration, and we know we are going to start telling these stories. In a media market where the price of media is increasing exponentially and getting more fragmented, the campaign as you’ve seen it right now is very cleverly designed to attach nature to our brand for the future stories we are going to tell.” With consumers becoming more wary of greenwashing and increasing doom and gloom when discussing environmental issues, The Monkeys Aotearoa Chief Creative Officer, Damon Stapleton, knew the tone of the campaign was imperative to its success. “We didn’t want to be a brand that preached. It’s more ‘let’s go on this journey together’ as opposed to ‘we’ll tell you what to do’. I think that was a breakthrough in terms of tonality and how we came across as a brand,” Damon says. Humour is an important part of achieving this tone with Damon believing “we could all do with a laugh instead of a lecture”. “I have a view that I don’t think the truth is enough. If you look at advertising over the last five years, it’s become very much about information and thinking somehow that’s going to be enough. I always think great advertising is a barter process. “Yes, you can give the consumer information, but I always think that if the consumer likes how you give that information that’s another tick. People are hearing a lot of things right now and they are dealing with a lot. That doesn’t mean that what we are saying isn’t important, but that doesn’t mean we can’t say it in a way that makes people’s day a little bit better. “You must earn the right for the consumer to listen to you. What we are saying is ‘nobody’s perfect but we are going on this journey, come with us, it’ll make things better’. That’s a much more honest brand.” This deeper level of understanding was why Meridian chose The Monkeys to look after this project says Michael. “I believe the best place for a brand to put responsibility for their advertising is with the best possible talent. You find people who really understand business, creativity and how to make the most of the intersection between the two.” The partnership between Meridian and The Monkeys was also a case of being in the right place at the right time he adds. “For a long time, you scan the market, and you figure out where the best talent is. We were of a mind that Justin Mowday [The Monkeys CEO], and Damon Stapleton were two of those minds. They were setting up The Monkeys at the time we were starting to review our agency relationships.” The two organisations soon realised they shared values around diversity, creativity, and commercial outcomes. “When all those things turned out to be yes, yes and yes we decided it was going to be quite a straightforward path for us to appoint The Monkeys directly,” Michael says. From Damon’s perspective, this project’s point of difference was the ambition shared by both Meridian and The Monkeys. “There is a lot of advertising on TV that no one notices or remembers. You need a partnership to create something that’s going to break through.” No doubt these shared values flowed over into how the two organisations collaborated over the two months the project was in production. Collaborating this efficiently and effectively is down to “clarity” says Michael. “Our brief and our team is super clear on what we were out to achieve. Because we are clear on what we are out to do and we hold true to that, every expert can do their thing.” Damon agrees. “Clarity is a very underrated quality. When you’re doing something this big clarity is everything. If everyone knows what they are doing, then they can do it well.” The campaign is set to run across the nation and will be supported by OOH, digital, social, a Newshub Weather sponsorship and a retail campaign featuring ‘Nature’. This is all about achieving reach Michael says. “We are looking to build attribution as opposed to spiking our sales. The assets are designed to work across as many different channels as they can. Every single campaign that rolls from here will have more discreet target audiences. The channels will shift but this brief, and this character, is built on attribution.” So far it’s clear Meridian’s brand is built on an ethos of walking the talk and inspiring change through action. In terms of marketing and Environmental, Social and Governmental change (ESG) Michael says he was aware of a contradiction between some brands actions and words and wanted to avoid this. “The Monkeys, through the strategy work, brought to us the notion that everyone feels pretty helpless until they see somebody else doing something. For us we had to take our executive board on a journey to say that if we want to see change, we must demonstrate change.” When Meridian rebranded back in 2019 the sustainability team and the marketing team was behind the idea of offering certified renewable energy. “We are planting millions of trees to offset carbon emissions, we are helping people convert their fleets, we are already a doing brand,” Michael says. “Now we have the luxury of launching a campaign that tells the stories of the things we are already doing. I’d never recommend a marketer do it the other way around.” He also hopes that Meridian can inspire people to carry out small actions through these initiatives. “If people see us doing things, then they are more likely to carry out small actions in their day-to-day lives. If this campaign encourages a few people to buy Electric Vehicles a few months earlier than they would have because they can see what we’ve been doing, then that’s a great outcome for everybody.” With the government as a key shareholder for Meridian and working closely with Iwi and community groups around the country, Michael hopes the more they do, the more they can inspire change. The launch of this campaign reaffirms Meridian’s commitment to ESG change he says and creates a “highly attributed platform for us to talk about what we are doing”. So, what’s next for this dynamic new brand platform? “Brand platform seems to be a buzzword that appears a lot, but I think most of them are actually taglines. A platform has a strategy behind it, there are the creative elements that go with it and there are the stories that you tell,” Michael continues. For Damon this campaign has successfully created space and platform to tell those stories. “This is the runway and it’s coming!” he says.