Greenpeace and Rethink have new name suggestions for Asbestos

Who: Greenpeace and Rethink Montreal and Toronto.

What: “After Asbestos,” a campaign to get the council in Asbestos, Que. to rename the town after one of six endangered species in the region.

When & Where: The campaign went live last week, very narrowly targeted to those in the town of about 7,000, located about two hours east of Montreal.

Why: The town had already decided to change its name to shed the lingering stigma of being associated with the building material known to cause cancer. Council is choosing a shortlist of names that the community will be able to vote on. Greenpeace wants to get the public (and council) to choose one of six names inspired by endangered animal and plant species.

“With your help, a name synonymous with destruction can become a symbol of life and biodiversity,” explains Greenpeace on the web page dedicated to the campaign.

How: This is where it got tricky. Rethink created a hero video for the campaign to make the case for naming the town after an endangered species, said creative director Xavier Blais.

But the agency originally wanted the campaign to focus on outdoor advertising, such as election campaign-style signs placed on lawns around the town. “Obviously because of the really dire situation right now we had to pivot and do this all online,” said Blais. Once they knew social distancing was going into effect, they shifted the focus towards new digital assets, including social posts, stories and filters for sharing.

“Greenpeace has a huge database, so it was old-fashioned digital, email-based, sending out all the elements and an online form to vote and then these social elements that people can take and put on their channels,” said Blais.

About the timing: Rethink and Greenpeace were going to push pause on everything as the COVID crisis began to take hold, but Asbestos city hall wanted to go ahead with its process to choose the shortlist, so they had to launch the campaign.

Quote: “It was tough because we liked the idea of being on the ground,” said Blais. “But to go and change everything from lawn signs to stories and posts was good. It’s something we didn’t consider at first. And it kind of helped us change the way to think about this. It was like ‘Yeah we should have done this in the first place, we should have had all these assets in the first place.'”

David Brown