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How the UN used Facebook to tackle climate change

'The People's Seat' puts the public at the centre of the climate-change conversation and champions the UN as a real change-maker - making it Campaign and Facebook's pick of the month

How the UN used Facebook to tackle climate change

The UN is one of the world’s key platforms for change – and it wanted to make sure everyone recognised this. The challenge was to show disengaged young people that the UN drives real change and makes a difference to people’s lives. That’s where WPP agencies came in. 

Big challenge, big idea 
To prove that the UN can drive real change, Grey London tapped into a new wave of activism to give everyone a chance to have their say at the crucial climate change talks, COP24. Grey London’s idea was to create a new seat at the UN, The People’s Seat, the first seat in UN history not to represent a nation or a specific interest but the world’s people. It would give them the opportunity to speak directly to decision makers. 

To launch The People’s Seat, the team needed the right delegate. Sir David Attenborough was chosen for his authority and resonance with young people. He agreed and invited the world to #TakeYourSeat in a social media campaign to rally the public. Social media users worldwide shared their fears, thoughts and experiences of climate change. Grey London used Instagram’s network of influencers and innovative formats such as Stories and Stickers to tell a mass audience there was a new way to make their voice heard and drive action. 

With their messages collated, two weeks later, on 3 December at COP24, Attenborough gave the first People’s Seat Address to the UN – 19 million watched the Facebook Live video of the speech on Facebook. 

Ongoing action
Attenborough’s speech also unveiled Actnow.bot – a chatbot for the UN designed to speak to people globally and encourage users to tackle climate change in their everyday life. Grey London and partner WPP agencies also had to overcome challenges such as the need to adhere to UN protocols and undertake global negotiations to get the parties involved to agree to creating The People’s Seat. 

Did it work? The results suggest it did. As one Instagrammer said: "This is probably one of the best [ads] I’ve seen – it’s one of the best opportunities to have your say in decisions about climate change."

Standout results

• 1.3 billion reach globally through earned media (1_ 30z] K bx^2x0) and no media spend
• 19 million watched the Facebook Live video of the speech on Facebook
• 1600 English-language articles, including front-page news in three UK newspapers
• More than 25,000 actions taken on the Messenger bot in the first day
• 500 pieces of broadcast coverage – including the BBC, Reuters, CCTV, CNN, and Sky News

Alison Smale, UN under-secretary-general for Global Communications
"In addition to providing people with an avenue for engagement in the global conversation on solutions to address climate change, the new initiative will also promote people’s individual actions to reduce emissions in their own lives. It will empower people to help be the change we need for a sustainable world."

Jeremy Lee, contributing editor, Campaign
"Sir David Attenborough’s powerful call to arms showed that everybody can have a say about tackling climate change. By delivering the speech live on Facebook and sharing it through its creators community, people were able to add their voices to effect political change in a way that perhaps no other platform could."

Isabelle Quevilly, creative strategist, Facebook
"With ‘The People’s Seat’ we combined creativity and technology to tackle one of the world’s biggest problems. This was a positive step towards enduring change. We explored new ways for the UN to realise its purpose and bring people together with world leaders."

Aisling Ryan, UN lead, WPP
"One of the most important decisions in our planet’s history was about to be made and the world’s people didn’t have a seat at the table. We knew we had to give them one. ‘The People’s Seat’ exemplified the power of technology to mobilise millions to take action. It proved that a brilliant idea, bravely executed, can create real change."

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