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Water security content is making waves for GHD. Here's why

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By The Drum, Editorial

November 29, 2023 | 7 min read

Man Bites Dog won in the Thought Leadership category at The Drum Awards for B2B for its work with GHD. Here, the agency explains what went into the award-winning work...

Check the award-winning campaign here.

Objectives

GHD is a global professional services company with leading engineering, design, advisory and digital expertise. But despite being a leader in its field, the company was struggling to make its voice heard.

GHD challenged Man Bites Dog to develop a campaign that would raise awareness of the company and its pivotal role in solving the world’s most complex infrastructure challenges.

The key objectives were:

• Awareness: To put the issue of resilient infrastructure firmly on the public policy and business agenda whilst increasing GHD’s competitive share of voice.

• Reputation: To position GHD as a thought leader on the critical role of infrastructure in solving global sustainability challenges.

• Engagement: To create a platform for GHD to build relationships with clients and influential stakeholders in the global infrastructure, policy and NGO community.

Strategy

As a leader in the delivery of complex infrastructure that supports our lives, GHD’s impact is critical but invisible. Man Bites Dog set out to create a campaign platform that would not only raise awareness of GHD but use its influence to campaign for change on a global issue that impacts the planet, communities and businesses.

Our background research showed that the infrastructure agenda was dominated by the decarbonisation imperative. Using Man Bites Dog’s proprietary 4D ideation model, we identified the clear blue space for GHD to lead the global conversation on a vitally important but neglected agenda: water.

Water security is set to be one of the defining issues of the decade, with UN data revealing that floods, droughts and storms impacted approximately 100 million people in 2021 alone. But despite the growing urgency of this issue, water is not receiving the attention, investment or action it requires.

Our strategy was to highlight the importance of water risk and resilience by projecting – for the first time – the financial impact of future water risk at a country and sector level. To achieve this, Man Bites Dog co-designed a bespoke economic model with Cambridge Econometrics, combining global insurance projections of water risk with a macroeconomic simulation of the global economy to estimate the wider GDP impact of droughts, floods and storms between 2022 and 2050. By focusing on commercial and societal impact, this campaign aimed to reach beyond the water industry to gain the attention of global policy influencers and heads of industry, creating a powerful business case for early investment in water resilience.

Our resulting campaign – Aquanomics – revealed that droughts, floods and storms could wipe $5.6 trillion from global GDP between 2022 and 2050.

The groundbreaking study covered 10 geographies and five industry sectors across GHD’s footprint, representing a diverse range of climates. For example, our model predicted that: • The USA could face $3.7 trillion in water-related damages by 2050 – equal to 0.5% of annual GDP – with storms having the biggest impact.

• Floods and storms could amount to over 90% of direct losses in the Philippines (around $89billion);

• As the world’s most water-intensive industry, agriculture faces losses of $143 billion by 2050 – an average output loss of 1.2% each year.

To supplement the economic findings, we engaged renowned water influencer Dr Ania Grobicki to provide insight into how these increasingly frequent and severe climatic events will impact global communities and ecosystems.

Man Bites Dog produced the Aquanomics report, supporting our data with GHD’s expert insight. The report was launched globally with a suite of content assets – including a highly visual interactive microsite and video – and a coordinated global PR rollout. GHD also implemented a gamified internal campaign to encourage sales teams to engage key clients in a conversation about the research, using the sales toolkit.

Results

As GHD’s first truly global thought leadership campaign, Aquanomics transformed GHD’s profile and provided the blueprint for future marketing campaigns, exceeding expectations across all three core objectives:

Awareness: Aquanomics put water on the sustainability agenda, promoting the importance of greater investment and innovation in resilient solutions. It simultaneously delivered a transformative step change in brand awareness for GHD, securing over 1,400 pieces of coverage. Top-tier media hits were achieved across GHD’s target markets, including a feature in Fortune Magazine and coverage in Reuters, CTV, The Australian, The Manila Times and Bloomberg – reaching over 900 million people. The research findings were also featured in a blog post by Canada's most prominent environmentalist David Suzuki.

The Aquanomics microsite has received almost 200,000 views to date, with an average session duration of almost four minutes, and campaign content garnered more than 1.3 million social impressions.

Reputation: Aquanomics enabled GHD to take its rightful place as an expert thought leader on water risk and resilient infrastructure amongst relevant peers. Our world-first research empowered the company to share its message at the UN’s Conference of Parties (COP) for the first time. Global Water Lead, Rod Naylor, and Dr Grobicki showcased the findings in a number of presentations and roundtable discussions exploring water risk at COP27. This enabled GHD delegates to engage with a wide range of international institutions, including the United Nations and the International Water Management Institute. The research findings also powered presentations from GHD stakeholders at key water events such as the Future of Water Summit 2022 in Miami and the Philwater 2022 conference in Manila.

GHD will also be leveraging the Aquanomics research for a workshop session at the 2023 Water Environment Federation's Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTECH) in Chicago.

Engagement: The campaign provided GHD’s local teams with tailored content to engage the custodians of the world’s water security (i.e., governments and the wider water sector) on this important issue, with the Aquanomics conversation toolkit being downloaded more than 2,000 times. Since launch, GHD’s Future of Water team has engaged new corporate prospects using the Aquanomics content and received a number of high-value inbound enquiries as a direct result of the campaign.

“Aquanomics has really put GHD’s water offer on the map. Not only has the campaign rapidly increased our share of voice, enabled new partnerships and generated inbound leads, it was also our passport to COP27, allowing us to highlight this incredibly important issue at the centre of the world stage.”

Rod Naylor, Global Water Lead, GHD

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