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By Awards Analyst | writer

October 5, 2020 | 5 min read

Tin Man topped the Public Affairs category at The Drum Awards for PR in 2020 with its ‘Life on Mars’ campaign for The Institution of Engineering and Technology. Read about their one-of-a-kind mission to send a clarinet to space, capturing the imagination of a new generation of engineers.

The challenge

By 2024, it’s estimated that there will be an annual shortfall of 59,000 engineers and technicians, threatening the economy - a situation that the Institution of Engineering and Technology (the IET) is working hard to rectify.

This was the third year Tin Man has worked with the IET. It previously developed the #ISeeMore strategic and creative platform upon which all subsequent campaigns sit, uncovering exciting creative roles in engineering through children’s interests and passions.

In 2017, it was the engineering behind their favorite chocolate bar (delivered through a partnership with Cadbury). In 2018, it was the engineering behind chart-topping pop music (by creating the first ever pop music video engineered entirely by kids).

A new direction was needed for 2019. Tin Man was briefed to:

  • Encourage children aged 6 to 13 (and with an emphasis on girls) to think differently about engineering and technology and consider a career in these fields;

  • Educate children about what an engineer does;

  • Show the exciting opportunities that engineering can offer.

The strategy

The target audience for this campaign was kids aged 6-13 - one of the hardest audiences to reach. They don’t consume traditional news media and they barely watch linear TV anymore.

To target them, the team put a laser-like focus on child-centric media. And, as their children’s biggest influencers, parents were the secondary audience. After all, parents need to be able to answer questions on engineering if their child shows an interest.

What would be a timely, relevant and hot topic of interest for 2019? What ‘thing’ has engineering at its heart and is the ultimate in imagination-inspiration for kids?

Well, 2019 just happened to be the 50th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing. So #ISeeMoreSpace was born.

Our strategy for #ISeeMoreSpace was to uncover and discover the exciting world of engineering needed for space exploration and life on Mars.

Elin's clarinet, modified for space.

The campaign

The approach was multi-dimensional and lasted six months.

The plan was to team up with the ever-popular children’s comic Beano. Across two bespoke full-page comic strips, the much-loved mischievous Dennis The Menace and Gnasher took to space, re-drawing engineering for kids and discussing which of their favorite possessions they’d take with them for life on Mars.

Readers were then challenged to re-engineer their favorite possession, modifying it to work in space to win a very special prize. From hundreds of entries, the winner, picked by a judging panel that included a real-life astronaut, was 10-year old Elin. She designed a one-of-a-kind space clarinet.

Tin Man also enlisted the help of a number of child-friendly YouTubers to transform engineering for their young followers, taking them behind the scenes of exciting jobs in engineering, astrophysics and space and encouraging their followers to enter the Beano’s challenge.

The reward was their space-friendly product prototype made in real life, and then to put it to the ultimate test. With the help of engineering specialists, it was actually sent it into space – reaching the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, capturing some truly awe-inspiring video and photography content along the way.

To engage the secondary parent audience, the video was sold into media for use alongside news of winner Elin’s design, as well as a news story revealing that more than a third of children would most like to take their TV to space with them should they need to leave the planet. Another news story, revealing the children’s predictions regarding when humans will have to inhabit Mars due to climate change, further contextualized the campaign for parents.

The results

This campaign took a 150-year-old institution (The IET) and made it (and engineering) relevant and exciting to a whole new generation.

Independent research amongst 6-to-13 year olds before and after the campaign found:

  • Consideration of a career in engineering leapt from 53% to 64% – a 21% increase;

  • The perception of engineering being a job for both boys and girls increased from 77% to 83%;

  • A total of 68k+ views (with zero paid media) on videos (Instagram and YouTube) from the influencers engaged; A total of 4,386 engagements on influencer content (6.5%); and 85 pieces of quality coverage, including 15 nationals, 6 consumer titles and 49 regionals.

“This year’s activity around Life on Mars really captured the imaginations of young people, getting them to think about engineering and technology in a fun and engaging way. To know that children thinking about careers in engineering and technology has increased since seeing our campaign is fantastic and shows why activity like this is so vital.”

- Rebecca Gillick, external communications manager at the IET

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for PR in 2020. To find out which competitions in The Drum Awards are currently open for entries, click here, or visit our new interactive calendar.

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Content created with:

Tin Man Communications

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