Campaign Tricked Kids To Go Outside, Become One With Nature

Most Americans live within 100 miles of a national forest or grassland, and in an effort to get more families to reconnect with nature, the Ad Council, the United States Forest Service (USFS) and ad agency The Barbarian Group are introducing a new component to the "Discover The Forest" initiative that encourages families to get outdoors. 

The concept uses themes not commonly featured in these campaigns which typically showcase awe-inspiring images of forests and picture perfect campgrounds. Instead, agency executives decided to prank children. They did it with a documentary-style film in which they invited a group of 8- to-9-year-olds to test out “an under development realistic video game.”  

Under this ruse, they bused the kids and their parents to their local outdoor park, strapped fake VR helmets on them and led them out into the forest. Then the kids soon learned that nature itself was the game and the devices were useless. In all, Barbarian executives wanted to capture the "wonder that even small local forests can evoke in kids by mixing whimsical and magical-feeling shots of the forest with low perspective angles to mimic how a child experiences nature with this reveal." 



"We tricked a bunch of kids into putting down their video games by telling them that they'd be testing an even better video game. When we finally revealed that the forest itself was the game, they weren't the least bit disappointed," says Jill Applebaum, creative director, Barbarian Group. Although children are highlighted in this campaign, the campaign hopes to reach their parents or caregivers, say agency executives. 

These images are running across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Spotify with the hashtag #Naturehoods that accompanies the tagline to "train their imaginations by visiting their local forests." The campaign also directs viewers to a Web site that features a zip code search to show their nearest forest or grassland, outdoor activity ideas, and tips for preparing for and enjoying nature as a family.

The Ad Council is a client of the Barbarian Group, and the organization teamed with USFS to develop a campaign to coincide with national Public Lands Day on September 26. 

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