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Why Shell and BrandBase created a STEM-themed youth festival in the Netherlands

BrandBase won ‘Open Air Experience of the Year’ at The Drum Experience Awards 2019 with its ‘Generation Discover Festival’ campaign for Shell. Here, the agency reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

Our world is facing a serious challenge. Two billion more people and a doubling in demand for energy, water and food.

Shell plays a key role in the global energy market. New talent - engineers, scientists, inventors - is crucial. But in the Netherlands - a knowledge-based economy - demand exceeds supply.

Schoolchildren have negative views about these fields. How can we reverse this and get children to develop a real interest in science and technology? How can we convince teachers to devote more time to science in the classroom? And put Shell in a leading role in promoting STEM education (science, technology, engineering, mathematics)?

Our KPIs included:

  • Deliver an event with at least 20,000 visitors.
  • A minimal visitor rating of 7.5/10.
  • Encourage youngsters to consider ‘future paths’ in science.
  • Convince & encourage teachers to give more science lessons.
  • Turn the festival into a partner-supported initiative.
  • Show visitors, press and the general public that science & technology are essential to societal progress.
  • Put Shell in a leading role in promoting STEM education (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

The strategy

The main aim was to reach children, schools, teachers, parents and grandparents. An inviting direct-mail package (including saltwater-powered cars) was sent to schools that participated in the programme.

A surprising move was our choice to focus attention on primary school children to tackle the vast shortage of technically skilled people in the Netherlands. We didn’t want to introduce them to these fields in a traditional way. We wanted to do something special to truly spark their interest and hopefully make them consider a career path in these areas. Instead of creating an event inside an exhibition hall we opted for an open-air festival because such an event is able to showcase this subject matter in ways that are not possible indoors. Inspiring, visible and open to all.

A big outdoor campaign, media partnership with RTL broadcasting network (No. 1 in the Netherlands), a major online bannering campaign and invites for Shell business partners were all part of the communication strategy.

A comprehensive media timeline was put out to cover the three stages - pre-, during and post-festival - to extend the communication period. Versatile content ranged from videos, photos and competitions, to live broadcast coverage on site across multiple channels.

We used multiple influencers with a large follower base who were also relevant to the subject, in order to resonate the festival’s existence and purpose and share it with an even broader target audience (visitors and non-visitors). The purpose was both to drive visitors to the festival as well as to engage with other audiences.

The campaign

We created the amazing five-day Generation Discover Festival. An event that showcases science & technology to a young audience. A place where the most curious youngsters explored science & technology experiences in a unique way.

Visitors were able to join hands-on workshops on issues such as building future cities, acting on cybercrime, controlling a 2-metre-tall robot, drone flying and building & racing saltwater-powered cars. Learning by doing and learning through play. We delivered a spectacular event to a large audience. We amazed youngsters and gave them many good reasons to fall in love with science, innovation and technology. We convinced teachers of the importance of the subject and encouraged them to spend more time on the subject in class.

At the entrance to the festival, visitors were welcomed via an interactive audio-visual tunnel that introduced them to the festival’s narrative. After this immersive experience, visitors were able to explore the domes. The domes have a futuristic, innovative appeal that gives the festival a modern look and feel. Inside the domes, visitors experienced the world of energy, bringing their own creative ideas to life. From crafting and test-driving a self-built wind turbine to building and racing a toy car that runs on saltwater. The visual story is a very thought-through mix of attractive visuals, challenging interactions and relevant narratives that combines content with adventure, suitable for both children and adults.

Finally, there was a main stage, visible and accessible from the entire festival venue. The stage hosted live science shows that alternated with a DJ who invited kids to get on the energy-generating dancefloor. The Ferris wheel helped create a genuine festival atmosphere and provided a great view!

The results

Generation Discover Festival was visited by 35,000 people. There were over 100 related publications, with a total reach that exceeded 100 million impressions. The festival was rewarded by visitors with a staggering average score of 8.8/10. But most importantly, the number of children aspiring to a technical or scientific career increased by 36% after the festival.

In addition, 84% of the teachers reported being willing to teach more science subjects in class. 100% of the teachers would recommend the festival to colleagues. More than 20 partner companies and organisations were actively present and contributed to the festival. Shell is now seen as one of the top initiators of STEM education in the Netherlands. Visitors and the general public have a better understanding of the important role that science and technology plays in the progress of our society.

The project was a winner at The Drum Experience Awards 2019. Click here to register your interest in 2020’s event.

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