The New York Times
A new vision for plastic
French group Veolia are specialists in ecological transformation with a focus on water, waste and energy management, and one of the world’s leaders in plastic recycling. Despite a shift in consciousness across certain developed markets in recent years, the world’s plastic consumption has increased 200-fold since 1950, and shows no significant signs of abating. When faced by the scale of the problem, it’s easy for both consumers and businesses to feel defeated before even starting to address the issue. There is a high awareness of the level of oceanic plastic waste that already exists, and we’re exposed to negative coverage on a daily basis.
Veolia wants to be a positive voice for a sustainable plastic economy, and understands that in order to drive meaningful change, we must first and foremost be pragmatic — designing a plastic economy that incentivizes and rewards a sustainable approach to plastic use. By collaborating with partners across industries, regions and sectors, Veolia is leading by example to create a circular plastic economy. Veolia came to The New York Times wanting to create a motivational and solution-focused story that both educates and inspires action, while helping to shift the conversation to a positive and constructive space. Together, we identified three key objectives for that program:
1) Educate: Raise awareness of the global plastic ecosystem and provide a clear picture that makes this complex topic digestible.
2) Inspire: Give Veolia’s target audiences on The New York Times the knowledge and motivation they need to mobilize and take meaningful action.
3) Position Veolia as a thought leader: By spotlighting Veolia’s initiatives, we can demonstrate why Veolia has the authority to own this global story.
The Creative Solution
The New York Times is dedicated to covering the biggest issues facing the planet today, leading the conversation around our environment. The audiences in Veolia’s key target markets are particularly engaged with environmental and social issues, and want to support brands that are also driving sustainable business practice.
The challenge we uncovered: Consumers want to help tackle our plastic problem, but currently find this topic unmanageable because there is no united, global voice providing a coherent, solution-based strategy.
The Insight: To inspire action on plastic, the world needs a positive vision worth fighting for.
The Opportunity: To combine Veolia’s expertise in plastic recycling with The New York Times’s powerful storytelling and influential audiences, depicting Veolia’s holistic vision for the plastic economy. Our motivational and solution-focused story about plastic puts the consumer at the center to educate and inspire action, while helping to shift the conversation to a positive and constructive space.
The Solution: Together, we developed a cross-platform, integrated partnership that leverages New York Times digital and print platforms in order to distribute content and ensure it’s accessible for all. This was achieved through long-form storytelling, micro-content and a high-impact media campaign, including print, display and sponsorship of our Climate & Environment section.
The long-form storytelling page living on NYTimes.com presented a critical examination of the role that plastic plays in commerce and the economy. We told this story in an originally reported article featuring voices from business, science and government, speaking about the importance of changing our relationship to plastic and how to manage it differently. The story came to life through bold original animated illustrations inspired by work created in The New York Times newsroom, including a graphic representation of the circular plastic economy. This story was complemented by a mini content unit, which we strategically placed within relevant climate coverage on our website, in which we answered key questions about solutions to plastic management, looking at four key topics that companies would find useful when reducing their plastic footprint. Taking our inspiration from The New York Times’s Q&A explainer approach, we illustrated the solutions available to companies that seek to join the circular plastic economy in order to reduce pollution, encourage local growth, improve design, and raise awareness of the issues at stake. To ensure there was a clear user journey, we enlisted the same art direction and illustrations for all of the content and media in our program.
The Media/Content Amplification Solution
The multi-platform campaign launched in June 2020, to coincide with World Environment Day. The campaign started with our custom creative units in the Climate Fwd editorial newsletter on June 3, reaching The New York Times audience directly in their inboxes, with a 60 percent open rate. We chose this media placement because we know that our newsletters influence our audience’s daily decision-making and consistently exceed industry benchmarks when it comes to average open rates and CTR.
Then on June 5, on World Environment day, we launched the other campaign elements to create a high-visibility splash for Veolia to reach its target audience. The brand benefited from great editorial alignment through the use of a full print page in the Climate Solutions Special Report, as well as through high-impact promotion across our NYTimes.com climate, sustainability and business coverage. As a full-bleed, responsive canvas, the Flex Frame format we used delivered branded content in-stream alongside editorial content on desktop and mobile. This alignment helped to encourage readers to experience our hero content, the Paid Post.
In terms of creative content placement, we chose the Paid Post format to drive meaningful engagement with the Veolia story because we know this type of destination allows our editors and designers room to develop an informative story that resonates with our intellectually curious and environmentally conscious audiences. We’ve historically seen that Paid Posts in a list format have higher than average engagement in the tech category, hence putting this forward as our recommendation (a step-by-step list) for “A New Vision for Plastic.” To guarantee quality views of our storytelling content for Veolia, we sold the Paid Post on a cost-per-page-view (CPV) basis and measured engagement on the page.
To educate and inform our influential audiences we also chose the Flex Post format (a micro-content storytelling unit) because those units are distributed, targeted, scalable and use branded content that allows Veolia to deliver an immersive, narrative experience designed to engage readers within the ad unit itself. It gave Veolia the ability to tell complex stories in an easily digestible way, in the context of relevant New York Times article pages. Our two storytelling formats were promoted through to July 22, providing enough time for our readers to discover and engage with a variety of the storytelling content.
This partnership was brought to life across a branded content Paid Post program, on-site native units, social media (Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin) traffic drivers and highly impactful ex frames. The messaging and impactful illustrations we created for Veolia on The New York Times were a hit with readers, demonstrated by the fact that all CTRs exceeded our prior campaign benchmarks, delivering 163 percent more page views than contracted.
The campaign targeted a global audience, reaching readers in 20 markets around the world, delivering over 23 million impressions and 26,000 page views.
Display media also proved to be effective amongst our readers, with the top performing creative running across the Science, Business, Tech and Health sections of the site, driving a CTR 396 percent higher than benchmark.