Fresh From The Field — Talk Nature – By Bryce Groves

1 month ago by

For the month of April we’ve put a special focus on projects and discussions around Design & Planet in alignment with our 2024 Autumn Conversations events.

Fresh from the Field is a weekly article series sharing the fresh and inspiring work of our Aotearoa Design Assembly community.

Bryce Groves was a featured speaker at our recent Design & Planet event in Tāmaki Makaurau. He shares his recent work on the Talk Nature campaign during his time as Creative Lead on The ‘Green Ideas Project’ pioneered by Greenpeace.

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The brief

In 2022-23, I had the pleasure of working as Creative Lead on The ‘Green Ideas Project’. This was a pop-up tactics and research lab, pioneered by Greenpeace Aotearoa, researching how New Zealanders connect to nature. As one part of the project’s extensive mahi, focus groups (n=89) were held across the country in 14 urban and regional centres, talking to New Zealanders from every walk of life, most especially those beyond the usual Greenpeace audience or supporters – those known colloquially as ‘out of the tent’.

The kōrero was not focused on climate change, biodiversity, pollution or any specific issues, but their general ideas and experiences around nature. Yet unprompted, people spontaneously and repeatedly opened up with their worries about the breakdown and loss of nature, and their reluctance to share these concerns in the open – a feeling of societal pressure to stay silent.

This was an unmissable opportunity to help everyday New Zealanders feel less alone, and inspire them to speak up for nature.

Backed up by further data from a separate quantitative survey (n=2025), the focus group insight ignited a tactical brief for a piece of creative. How might Greenpeace communicate this surprising insight powerfully yet succinctly? How might we empower people, and foster public conversation during a noisy election period?

The Design Response

We quickly identified that initial concepts involving symbolic illustration and the like would be easily confused with other NGOs and movements, such as Forest & Bird. The real power of the insight was in the people’s words; and that we as New Zealanders were, in effect, censoring ourselves. So it became clear that only the medium of film could truly portray this.

Three characters and scripts were crafted that best represented the views and people discovered in the research. The visual idea flourished and evolved through an energetic collaboration with Director Alyx Duncan, who brought new layers of ambition and production despite working to a low ‘NGO budget’ tight timeline and managing all creative and production in-house.

One key challenge was representing tangata whenua.

15% of the focus groups were māori, and an independently-māori-led set of focus groups talked separately to tangata whenua. But not a single participant of those expressed the ‘self-censoring’ behaviour. So we could not legitimately have a māori character in the ad performing that action. Yet we couldn’t put out a campaign in contemporary Aotearoa devoid of māori perspectives. The solution was to cast someone as the barista who gives our main character, ‘Scotty’, a knowing but encouraging glance. Making the owner of the cafe māori has an additional layer of dual symbolism – as Alyx Duncan put it, “this is her place” – a dual meaning of the cafe, and the whenua. It’s subtle, but a solution that the cultural advisor was happy to call authentic.

TalkNature ran as 60- and 15-second versions on YouTube pre-roll and paid and organic social, with Auckland and regional independent theatres playing the full ad to nearly 20,000 cinemagoers over a 3 month period. A microsite brought extra depth and interaction, and it was a delight to distil the concept into print, with 76 street-poster sites in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The campaign maintained a ‘lightly branded’ approach in tune with how the focus groups had engaged wider audiences.

While tangible impact was tricky to measure, and the ‘noise’ of the election in the media overwhelmed the typical PR, we saw some initial interesting uptake in social media, most notably Reddit – usually a dire place to attempt any sort of environmental message. Anecdotally, we also frequently heard how the conceptual ‘twist’ and cinematic approach was a surprise for audiences – disrupting typical perceptions of Greenpeace ads.

The TalkNature campaign was remarkable for the huge shared kaupapa, generosity and enthusiasm of the production and post-production team, who brought such high-quality production to life on a tight deadline. And yet, we barely scratched the surface of empowering a public conversation. So I hope that other creatives can be inspired by this insight and find new ways to help New Zealanders speak up for nature.

Behind the scenes featurettte

The Design Team

Bryce Groves, Creative Lead/Writer/Producer
Dr Ranmalie Jayasinha, Qualitative Researcher/Writer
Jessica Desmond, Project Lead/Producer
Alyx Duncan – Director

https://www.bvg.nz
Insta @beeveesqueegee
Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/bvgnz/

Client details

https://talknature.greenpeace.nz/

https://www.facebook.com/greenpeace.nz
https://www.instagram.com/greenpeacenz/
https://twitter.com/GreenpeaceNZ
https://www.tiktok.com/@greenpeacenz
https://www.greenpeace.org/aotearoa/

Collaborators

Nina Wells – Cinematographer
Adam-Luka Turjak – Editor
James Bryant and Adam-Luka Turjak – Sound design
David McLaren, Colourspace – Online post
James Hita – cultural advisor

Special thanks to ODD actors management, ImageZone, and Altezano Brothers Coffee


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