The National Trust Gets Out of the Box and into Nature

Everyone Needs Nature

National Trust


Every so often you see an ad which breaks the rules – no storyline, no narrative, no product shots, but trying something entirely different. For instance, a couple of years back Burger King aired a Super Bowl ad which was just some old movie footage of the artist Andy Warhol tucking into a cheeseburger. The ad critics loved its audacity, introducing a moment of pause into the frenzy of the big game night.

Unfortunately, the public tend to be less understanding. The rules of ads are not, it turns out, made to be broken – the “Andy” spot scored a rock bottom 1.0-Star score when we tested it. You run these experimental ads at your own risk.

This week, though, the National Trust (the charity which owns, maintains or protects a lot of Britain’s historic properties and sites of natural beauty) tried something different and succeeded – in a sense.

“Everyone Needs Nature” is a campaign made up of a series of minimal ads, showing a few seconds of birdsong, or waves, with a simple message from the charity and an invitation to visit their website.

The National Trust here are selling two things. First off, the experience of nature – their main product. But six months into a pandemic, experiencing nature isn’t as straightforward as it used to be. So the charity are explicitly selling a higher-order benefit, ‘calm’. The ad’s tranquility is designed to cut through the clutter and noise of the day and remind viewers of the need to relax.

Clever stuff. And from an emotional perspective, it works. The ad scored a strong 4.5-Star score among our sample of viewers, a good level for a charity (particularly one which doesn’t have kids or dogs to work with!). A shot of calm turns out to be very welcome among Britain’s stressed and frazzled public.

Will it do much for the brand, though – like send people to the website? The Star score suggests its long-term potential is good, but its scores on Spike and Brand Fluency, which predict short-term activation and measure speed of brand recognition, are frankly poor.

A low Spike score is probably inevitable in an ad like this, which aims for steady emotion throughout its brief duration. But the National Trust should be more concerned about Fluency – despite the presence of a logo from the beginning, the level of brand recognition is low. Viewers will be grateful for the oasis of calm the charity provides.But they won’t know who to thank.