On Saturday, March 27, people and businesses around the world will turn off their lights for one hour starting at 8:30 p.m. local time as part of the fourth annual Earth Hour, which was created to encourage people to become more aware of what they can do to help the environment.
Earth Hour, organized by World Wildlife Fund, was launched in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, as a stand against climate change. By 2009, Earth Hour had gained the support of hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Here, in the second of three interviews with the people involved in creating and establishing Earth Hour, Alan Weetch, partner of Mindshare Worldwide, London, talks about the growth of Earth Hour and why it means so much to him personally.
Ad Age: What is your company's involvement in Earth Hour?
Alan Weetch: For the last 10 years or so, Mindshare Worldwide has been securing advertising space for WWF International, headquartered in Switzerland. When I took over the running of the WWF account -- this was back in 2002 -- it was all about procuring pro bono ad pages in leading global publications such as Newsweek, Time, National Geographic and Business Week. Nowadays the WWF team here at Mindshare (I work with Zeta Fotakopoulou and Carli Furman) is booking ads in print titles, on international TV channels and with a variety of digital partners -- all on behalf of WWF clients scattered across the globe. Last year, we ran activity for WWF's Climate Savers, Bluefin Tuna, Vote Earth and Earth Hour campaigns, and this year looks to be even busier as Earth Hour enters its fourth year.
Ad Age: Why did you get involved? What does it mean personally to you?
Alan Weetch: In my fourth year at Mindshare I took a sabbatical to go and work for a conservation organization called Jatun Sacha in Ecuador and the Galapagos. I'd grown up in the Caribbean so I wanted/needed a break from London and to get back to nature (and some surfing and diving). Ecuador ticked all the boxes. It was a life-changing experience and one which I still bore people in the pub about. We lived for months in the Amazonian basin planting trees, acting as park guards and working with schools and communities. When I returned from that trip, I immediately put my hand up to look after the WWF account.
My main client at Mindshare is HSBC, which also has a very strong relationship with WWF through the HSBC Climate Partnership. HSBC's corporate responsibility focus is on river restoration, community education and conservation projects -- all [geared] toward combating the threat of climate change. So you see it all links together quite nicely.
Ad Age: Do you see Earth Hour having a lasting effect globally? If so, how, and how would you envision that growing?
Alan Weetch: We have worked with WWF on Earth Hour since its first year, and it has been fantastic to watch it go from strength to strength. Earth Hour has grown from relatively small beginnings only a few years ago to become the greatest show of action on climate change the world has seen. In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour, and it was great to feel such a part of it -- from running the international media campaign right through to switching the lights off at home. Bring on 2010 and the next Earth Hour.