OPG goes nuclear to recast a maligned (and misunderstood) energy source

Who: Ontario Power Generation, with Forsman & Bodenfors for strategy and creative; Hestyreps (Drew MacEachern) for design and motion; TA2 for audio; MMI for media.

What: “Recast Nuclear,” a campaign aimed at dispelling some of the common myths and misperceptions of nuclear power that have been created by pop culture, using movie posters and trailers to deliver the message.

When & Where: The campaign is in market now, running across the GTA using digital posters in Cineplex locations. There are also static posters throughout the region, complemented by online video and radio.

Why: With Ontario’s appetite for energy, and more specifically clean energy, on the rise, the government has shown renewed interest in going nuclear.

With one small modular reactor (SMR) already in pre-construction and licensing at the Darlington nuclear site, the Ontario government announced it is beginning the process of planning and licensing for three additional SMRs, which are expected to come online between 2029 and 2036, and will produce a total 1,200 megawatts of electricity (equivalent to powering 1.2 million homes) to meet increased power demand.

“It’s never been more important to get the general population to really understand what nuclear is and what it has to offer,” said Formsan & Bodenfors creative director Kate Thorneloe. “OPG has really identified that there are so many misconceptions about nuclear, and if they’re going to be successful with these future projects, they really need Ontarians to understand what it is.”

The campaign is intended to recast nuclear power as a “true hero” of the province’s clean energy mix, while combating misconceptions created by movies, TV shows, etc, said Kathy Nosich, OPG’s vice-president of stakeholder relations. “We hope this will grow understanding and acceptance of this beneficial technology that is so important to our economic and environmental wellbeing.”

The campaign is part of an ongoing effort by OPG to educate people around nuclear energy. Last year, Forsman & Bodenfors created a series of animated shorts featuring a character named “Pelly,” a uranium pellet helping “power a cleaner future” for the province.

That campaign ran primarily on TikTok, aimed at a Gen Z audience that Thorneloe said doesn’t have the same attitude towards nuclear energy as older generations, but has a high degree of anxiety around the climate. The “Recast Nuclear” work is aimed at older generations whose perception of nuclear energy has been shaped by pop culture.

How: Because popular culture has played such a key role in the perception of nuclear power—whether it’s Godzilla, 1979’s Three Mile Island-referencing movie The China Syndrome, or recent shows like HBO’s Chernobyl—Forsman & Bodenfors decided to use the same tactics to present an alternative view of the energy source.

The agency developed a series of posters for fictional movies that nod to established movie franchises/genres. A poster for “Fully Charged,” for example, alludes to the Fast & Furious franchise, while the more whimsical and colourful poster for “Nuclear,” slyly nods to a Wes Anderson film, and one promoting “Nuclear Power: A Medical Superhero” takes it cues from the Marvel Comics Universe.

“We don’t expect people to pay attention to a message about nuclear energy, so we know we have to go the extra mile to be engaging and hopefully a little bit entertaining as we bring forward information that people aren’t necessarily looking for,” said Thorneloe. “[We wanted] to craft this in a way that it feels like a real movie… we get that lean-in from people and very quickly deliver what our message actually is. The hope is that we’re arming our target with this educational tidbits about nuclear.”

The posters are accompanied by a 15-second teaser ad that opens on a Godzilla-like creature causing havoc and panic while a movie trailer-esque voice informs viewers that “This is not sci-fi. There are no bad guys. In fact, this doesn’t even need… a cool voiceover,” as the video transitions to a shot of OPG’s Darlington facility east of Toronto. The rating system at the end of the spot shows that it’s rated E for everyone. All of the creative drives to a dedicated website that dispels some of the common misconceptions around nuclear power.

And we quote: “For years, popular culture has distorted perceptions about nuclear power with false narratives that served to stoke fear. This education campaign aims to recast nuclear power as a true hero of our clean energy mix. We hope this will grow understanding and acceptance of this beneficial technology that is so important to our economic and environmental wellbeing.” — Heather Ferguson, SVP business development and corporate affairs, OPG


Chris Powell