What do you think of when you hear the words “nuclear energy”? For many, disaster and waste may come to mind. But the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington, D.C. aims to change that. NEI launched a new campaign created by the Colorado-based shop Victors & Spoils. The managing director at V&S, Danielle Fuller, shares how her team seeks to edify folks about the many positives of nuclear energy—positives that we benefit from every day, she says, and simply don’t realize.
From what you’ve learned, what do most people know about nuclear energy?
Honestly, not much. As a part of our infrastructure, it’s one of those things that sit in the background of people’s lives, which they don’t normally consider. It’s part of the invisible system that keeps our world running. What little we know about it is generally associated with nuclear’s negative aspects: the Fukushima disaster, Three Mile Island, waste, etcetera.
What does NEI want them to know?
That nuclear energy is actually quite central to the way we live today. It not only powers our homes and cities, but it also enables us to have the power that we need without carbon emissions. It’s a critical part of our infrastructure in the U.S.
What’s the insight that led to this campaign?
Nuclear energy really does miraculous things in our lives. Beyond generating electricity, it powers sophisticated scanners so that doctors can detect deadly diseases; it allows submarines and aircraft carriers to travel around the world without refueling; it powers spacecraft, such as the Cassin-Huygens probe, which just finished its mission to Saturn.
How did you come up with this campaign idea?
We realized that we needed to give all people—from policymakers to folks in small towns—an opportunity to reconsider nuclear energy. And jumping off of that idea of nuclear power’s incredible capabilities, we knew that if we just reframed the way it’s presented to them, they’ll stop and take a second look.
What was the biggest challenge in creating this campaign?
Politics. Not that this is a political campaign, but since this is an industry that lives and dies by the regulations coming out of Washington, politics is something that we have to consider. The day we kicked off the project was the day after Donald Trump got elected. It was an unexpected turn, which changed the entire policy landscape for us overnight. We had to make some pretty serious adjustments to our strategy, but we ended up in a really interesting place.
What, in particular, makes this TV spot effective?
There’s a sense of newness—a feeling of wonder—that comes from this work. By introducing the audience to the extraordinary things that nuclear is doing in individuals’ lives from the outset, the spot pulls the viewer in. Intrigues them. By playing off this feeling of wonder with nuclear, it creates a moment of dissonance, which encourages the audience to reconsider nuclear. That’s something many have never thought about before.
What’s been the reaction to this campaign so far?
So far, the campaign has had a very positive reaction from the industry, NEI members, and NEI executive management.
One member said in an email to the NEI CEO, “It strikes all the right chords: clean-air energy to do amazing things, i.e. powering cities, creating jobs, enabling missions into deep space, diagnosing diseases. You guys clearly worked with people who understand how to do technology communication.”
And the different approach was quickly recognized in the energy community. In an article written by E&E News, an organization focusing on energy and the environment, the headline read, “Industry launches ad campaign, ‘radical departure’ in strategy.”
NEI CEO Maria Korsnick said it simply and succinctly: “We definitely have plowed new ground.”
What’s something about this campaign that most people don’t know?
This is the first time the nuclear energy industry has ever spoken directly to the consumers. It’s a huge moment for them. And we’re really excited to have been the agency to help them bring their message to a mass audience.
We hope to build on the campaign and its message in the coming year. This campaign was just the tip of the iceberg in reframing the conversation around nuclear.