Ad Nut
Apr 23, 2019

Vietnamese Red Bull billboard campaign needs to shed more light

The concept by VMLY&R Indochina is such a good brand fit that it impedes its intention.

While many people saw Earth Day as an occasion to switch off their lights at night to conserve power, Red Bull and VMLY&R are using the opportunity to let the world know about a campaign that does the exact opposite. The ‘Giving life to the night’ campaign in Vietnam involved powering a giant Red Bull billboard with blindingly powerful LED floodlights.

How politically incorrect is that, you ask? Not very. The billboard is powered by renewable thermal energy produced from 2,475 recycled Red Bull cans that heat up during the day and produce electricity that is stored until night time. That’s when the billboard and surrounding floodlights automatically turn on to provide light for local football pitches, basketball courts and skate parks in the suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City, where lighting infrastructure hasn’t kept up with community needs at recreation parks.

Ad Nut applauds the intention here. It’s also easy to see how producing energy to allow Vietnamese youth to expend energy in a positive way fits very well with a leading energy-drink brand. The campaign is part of Red Bull’s ‘Charge Ahead into Your Dream’ initiative, aiming to empower people to pursue passions and dreams. 

The problem is that the concept is such a good fit that it might just be getting in the way of its very intention. It took six months of testing to develop the working billboard powered by the black spraypainted cans, Ad Nut is told, and since launching the billboard on September 15, 2018, it has provided 216.25 hours of renewable light for recreation, or an additional 75 minutes of light each day.

Sounds nice, but 75 minutes a day is not a long time. Maybe it’s enough for one basketball game or one football match.

And it’s one billboard, moved around to different places in suburban Saigon. So unlike Thailand’s Grand Prix-winning ‘Unusual Football Field’ project, which won at Spikes and Cannes for turning vacant lots into ball courts for less privileged communities, this Red Bull billboard installation isn’t permanent. So how can kids “carry out their passions and dreams” if they have a just an hour of extra light to play basketball, and next week the billboard might be moved to a skate park somewhere? The release says communities are “rallying for the billboard to return to their neighbourhoods.” Sure, why wouldn’t they?

But if the goal here was really to allow Vietnamese youth to pursue their dreams and not to win awards or fit-in with a brand promise, wouldn’t the same money and effort be better spent on finding a more practical permanent lighting solution that’s ‘powered by Red Bull’?

That definitely wouldn’t be as sexy as thermal energy-emitting Red Bull cans, but tell that to the kids in the dark waiting for the billboard to be rolled back to their pitch. Ad Nut is sure they wouldn’t mind.

Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.


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