Cast your mind back to April 2020 – the world had been suddenly plunged into lockdown and people were being encouraged to stay home to protect themselves and their families. Realizing that audiences were suddenly stuck at home and were seeking out ways to learn new skills or content providing escapism from an anxiety-ridden reality, BBC Earth launched a linear and digital campaign encouraging people to “Stay In and Explore”. We were looking to publish content showing audiences how to live more sustainably at a time when individual actions have never been so important in the impact that they can have on the world.
As people struggled to access a variety of food, faced long queues at supermarkets and were encouraged to stay home, we wanted to give people practical tips on how to make their food go further and help prevent waste. It had to be fun and teach people something they didn’t know. This led us to develop two content series with zero-waste chef Max La Manna under the banner of “Stay In and Explore”: ‘Regrow’ and ‘What Have You Got Left Today?’. They also served a dual purpose by introducing Max, a new talent, to our audience ahead of our new original Facebook series ‘Regeneration Food’.
One of the biggest strategic shifts was changing the way we talk about sustainability. Audience research showed us that people are looking for tips on how to live more sustainably, but historically our content shined a light on the problem not solution. In response to the pandemic, we made the decision to adapt the tone, and try out content that focuses on fun, practical solutions and doesn’t add to the doom and gloom of the pandemic.
More than ever before we needed to plan for flexibility. The strategy was to develop a digital-first format that could react and respond to daily audience feedback, requiring us to reshape the way our team works to devise a way to produce content quicker and more efficiently than we ever have before.
In terms of implementing the series ambition, the first challenge was born out of the reason for the series’ creation: national lockdown. Our producer and director had to quickly adapt to the unprecedented circumstances, working remotely with Max La Manna to shape the formats, create scripts and find a way to film under lockdown conditions with all staff working from home – the solution was to coach Max over Zoom on how to set up and self-operate three different cameras and sound equipment.
The key feature of ‘What Have You Got Left Today?’ was to set ourselves a huge challenge in posting a weekly callout on Instagram, asking the audience to share which foods they were trying to use up at home. The most popular items were shared with Max who would then shape that week’s content and recipes, developing innovative vegan recipes using food scraps in unexpected new ways, from a leftover greens chickpea pancake to banana peel “pulled pork”.
On ‘Regrow’, we noticed that audiences started to share their plant-growing progress with us, and the series was getting notably higher engagement. As a result, we decided to incorporate user generated content into our campaign. This in turn drove an increase in the images and updates being shared with the team. Because of the quick turnaround times on the content, the team were regularly working 14 hours a day to script, shoot and edit the videos to hit our publishing deadlines.
The two series were published on a rolling week-by-week basis, with the main films publishing to Facebook. We also created supporting materials on Instagram stories and commissioned articles which were published on BBCEarth.com to support the launch of the original series.
Across the 10 Facebook videos we achieved 5.9m video views and 118k interactions. The success of ‘Regrow’ and ‘What Have You Got Left Today?’ helped us introduce a new talent onto the channel ahead of key original series launch. We saw an incredible reaction from fans with high levels of audience investment and engagement across the series, with audiences coming back each week to check progress and sharing photos of their results.