New ways of reaching out

5 cartoon mascots, one green message

(From left) Ms Chua, Mr Kong and Ms Leow of MEWR's marketing communications team. The team came up with cartoon mascots and books to boost awareness of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint.
(From left) Ms Chua, Mr Kong and Ms Leow of MEWR's marketing communications team. The team came up with cartoon mascots and books to boost awareness of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Try telling people to not use too many plastic bags, bottles and styrofoam boxes. Or car owners to take public transport more often.

Messages emphasising the impact of climate change and the importance of individual action have been told and retold over the years for decades. Yet, behavioural changes are perhaps the hardest to cultivate.

At the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), its marketing communications team has been working to ramp up awareness of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. The policy paper, which maps out the Government's effort to build a more liveable and sustainable future, was first put out in 2009.

Efforts to brand it and give it an identity started last year, says Ms Andrea Chua, senior assistant director of MEWR's five-person marketing communications department.

Two of its officers - senior executives Ian Kong and Chee Kang Xiong - were hired in 2015 and 2013 respectively as they were trained in film and video. Both graduated from Nanyang Technological University's School of Art, Design and Media.

Around then, the ministry wanted to shift the focus of the marketing communications department to content creation instead of media monitoring.

 

For the sustainability policy, the team produced five cartoon characters to illustrate the five pillars of the policy paper: Zippy Maree, a carefree butterfly representing a car-lite Singapore; Smiley Ray, a sun that promotes a green economy; Smart Eddie, a wise owl encouraging an active lifestyle in neighbourhoods with eco-friendly features; Caring Cora, who pushes for an active and gracious community; and Eco Eva, a water droplet striving for a zero-waste nation.

The team then created videos in-house showing the cartoon mascots going about their daily lives. One shows Eco Eva shopping for groceries at a FairPrice supermarket with a reusable shopping bag.

Mr Kong says he usually handles the writing and directing of a video, while Mr Chee is in charge of the more technical aspects such as cinematography and lighting.

Mr Kong adds: "I will usually come up with the ideas and draft the story, and then sit with the whole team to discuss and see what works."

The team's other creations include storybooks, written by senior executive Shallyn Leow, in which the policy's main pillars are presented as adventures that a young boy named Cody goes through.

Next, the team is looking at ways to work together with the public.

"Perhaps with people who love art or gaming - we can look at creating content with them," says Ms Chua.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline '5 cartoon mascots, one green message'. Print Edition | Subscribe