The very literal campaign for the green search engine alternative - #BehindTheIdea


The internet has been a pretty spectacular invention but it's not exactly been great for the environment. This is where Ecosia plans to step in and put a very green stamp on the search engine market.

The concept behind Ecosia is that it's a search engine that plants a tree every time a search is made. It's a gloriously simple concept and while they are far from the first brand to work the ecological off-set angle they might be the first to do so on such a monumental scale. It's an idea that deserved an ambitious creative marketing concept and that's just what it got. "Wierd Search Requests" celebrates not only the bizarre searches we all make on a daily basis but the ambitious and literally world-changing nature of the brand's goal.

Today we are going Behind the Idea with Ecosia CMO Hannah Wickes to learn more about the work, the concept and the message

What was the brief?

Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees, set out to create our first-ever major integrated brand campaign campaign across Europe. The plan was to increase brand awareness and reach millions of new users so we can plant more trees.

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

Our campaign was sparked in an unusual way:  A group of film students at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg created a brand video titled ‘Weird Search Requests’ as part of a class assignment - which went on to win multiple awards,  including a Silver Screen in the prestigious Young Director Award award at Cannes.

We loved this video so much, we obtained a 12-month license and decided to expand on their film concept to build an integrated campaign featuring TV, OOH, digital, press and social. We then partnered with JCDecaux and Sky Media to create a comprehensive campaign plan that is currently live in 12 major cities across Europe. 


Tell us more about the concept. How did it come to life, and why was it the right choice?

The film has a simple concept: It shows Ecosia users making unusual searches on our app, which leads to a tree sprouting up wherever the search was made - ranging from a bus to a lecture hall - and ending with the words: “No matter how weird your search request, we’ll plant the trees anyway.”

The simplicity of this message spoke to us and we knew this was the right basis for our campaign. At Ecosia, we are providing a simple green alternative to search online, and through users’ everyday searches we are regenerating landscapes all over the world. This simple yet powerful concept was the perfect fit for our brand, and lent itself naturally to a creative advertising campaign.

To bring the concept to life we partnered with JCDecaux. To take the concept to the streets, we reached out to our users and asked them to share weird searches with us. We then built those searches into billboards and digital display panels, using searches that are specific to the local areas in which they are displayed, capitalising on the contextual power of out-of-home advertising. The campaign is targeted towards several traffic types including bike and public transport.

The campaign is part of JCDecaux’s Nurture Program, a programme within the company which partners up with start-ups and scale-ups across Europe to help them scale their brand through high-impact, high-trust out-of-home media. The print campaign is printed on 100% recycled paper and PE vinyl posters. The digital screens in European cities are powered by green electricity. 

We also partnered with Sky Media in the UK, the advertising arm of Sky, to bring Ecosia to TV in the UK for the first time. By using AdSmart, Ecosia’s ‘Weird Search Requests’ campaign is reaching targeted, eco-conscious groups across six UK cities, which mirror, and in certain areas expand on, the out-of-home campaign locations from JCDecaux.

The video is running across our paid and organic social channels including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, and we are using the core concept of weird searches to engage our community through memes, replies and an April Fools’ Day piece.

What was the production process like? What was the biggest challenge?

The process of working with JCDecaux and Sky Media has been collaborative and fruitful, and most importantly, a lot of fun! We originally met with JCDecaux UK but soon realised the international potential of the campaign. We brought in Nurture teams across Europe and created 110 variants of the creative in four languages, referring to local weird searches. The vendors supported with print and production, and explored options for additional digital media to be reactive to new ideas throughout the campaign.

The pandemic has presented a challenge - as for all companies at the moment. We have had to keep a close eye on developments and be prepared to turn on a dime if new lockdowns were put in place. So far everything has been able to proceed according to plan, but we are ready if the situation changes quickly. For example, we rapidly adjusted the digital OOH media buy in Paris to respond to certain site closures announced in late March.


What is one funny or notable thing that happened during the production of the campaign?

When briefing the campaign to our social media manager, we realised that the campaign launched within days of April Fools’ Day and that the core concept of weird searches could make a really strong prank. We went into video production immediately, to produce an intentionally low-resolution product launch for SmugSearch™, a new feature that replaces your weird search requests with intelligent ideas. We directly referenced search requests from the video, to create a soft teaser for the campaign across our social media channels. 

What’s the main message of the campaign and why does it matter?

The message is very clear: ‘You search Ecosia. We plant trees.’ In a quick glance it’s clear that we’re a green search engine. We are one of the largest and fastest-growing environmental movements in the world and a big part of that is because we provide a way for people to take climate action every single day - even multiple times in one day! 

What is one unique aspect of the campaign?

It’s definitely unique that we developed the concept of the students’ film. It fits with our ethos; we are all about our users and our community - they drive our success. The fact that a group of students who wanted to base their class assignment on a purpose-driven company and chose Ecosia was wonderful for us and the ultimate example of user-generated creative.

How long did it take from inception to delivery?

Given the scale of this campaign, it came together very quickly. We started working on the concept in October and launched on the 5th of April across 12 cities and in a number of channels.

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

Our goal is to reach millions of new users all across Europe, so we can plant more trees and grow the impact of our restoration work. It’s vitally important that we reach new users so we can tackle the climate crisis at scale and positively impact the communities where we plant trees.


Credit list for the campaign

Client: Ecosia 

Agency: Independent / Students at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg

Media Owners: Sky Media & JCDecaux UK

Creative Idea: Sandro Rados, Pauline Nier and Lotta Schmelzer

Production Company: Germany’s Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg 

Producer: Pauline Nier and Lotta Schmelzer

Director: Sandro Rados


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