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Plume Labs

Pigeon Air Patrol




2 Bronze Lions, Cannes International

BIMA Strategy & Effectiveness Award

Value we created

  • Generated 667 million impressions from a standing start
  • Started over 40,000 conversations online about air pollution
  • Story covered by over 2,000 global news outlets
  • Successful crowdfunder, raising target inside 3 days.


The business problem we solved

Environmental technology specialist Plume Labs is at the forefront of developing technology that helps people control personal exposure to air pollution and therefore improve their health. A key business problem is the fact that because air pollution is almost invisible, people can’t easily see when they’re putting themselves in harm’s way. And because the science explaining how it harms people is complicated, it can be hard for people to grasp just how big a problem air pollution is. Our challenge was to make the problem of air pollution visible in an engaging and easy to understand way that would encourage people to take action – rather than being scared or baffled by science. 

What we did

Last year, 10,000 Londoners died from diseases caused by air pollution. We created the world’s first flock of pollution-monitoring pigeons to make this problem visible. The Pigeon Air Patrol was a flock of highly trained racing pigeons carrying bespoke, super lightweight backpacks containing Plume Labs’ tiny air-pollution sensors. Not only did they make the subject of air pollution more accessible, more people wanted to talk about it, and 93% said they cared more about it. The story was covered by over 2,000 global news outlets and started over 40,000 conversations online, leading to 667 million impressions. What's more, the campaign led to a successful crowdfunder, raising more than £10,000 inside 3 days.

How we did it

A campaign that combines pigeons, experimental technology, data and social media is always going to be complex and involve many moving parts.

The Air Patrol’s flights were tracked in real time, meaning that they were able to generate accurate air pollution readings across the capital. Next – through a strategic partnership with Twitter – we invited the public to take part in the campaign by allowing them to tweet their location to the pigeons and be delivered accurate, up to the minute air pollution readings for their area.

Twitter was the most relevant platform choice for this as it allowed us to connect with people in an open, personalised way – sharing relevant data they could act on. It was also ideal for spreading the conversation fast to a broader audience, as well as fuelling media interest. Interest in the campaign rocketed during the course of the week – fuelled by a real-time responsive content team housed in Digitas’s state of the art social media war room. This allowed us to amplify the message of the campaign and smash all of our initial campaign targets.

Date of campaign

April 2016


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