NSW RFS revisits Black Summer for new campaign via Wunderman Thompson

The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) has released a campaign asking Australians to prepare for the upcoming bush fire season via Wunderman Thompson Australia, titled ‘Live Bush Fire Ready’.

The campaign depicts the suddenness of an approaching bushfire and asks residents of New South Wales to be prepared ahead of time.

The 45-second spot is reminiscent of the Black Summer bushfire season of 2019 to 2020, when devastating bush fires spread throughout the east of Australia, including large parts of New South Wales. The campaign revisits the iconic images from the period, with those in the campaign having experienced the season personally.

NSW RFS director of communications and engagement Anthony Clark commented: “As we look back on Black Summer, as well as a pandemic that has occupied our minds and lives over the past year, we knew this campaign would be incredibly important to get right. We needed to strike a balance between showing the devastating impact of fires while being respectful to people’s recovery. This campaign builds upon more than a decade’s work in improving the level of planning and preparation in the community.

“Over the past nine years, Wunderman Thompson have been a creatively strong and effective partner and after a competitive pitch process, we knew they would continue to drive the important behaviour change needed.”

The ‘Live Bush Fire Ready’ is a new brand platform by Wunderman Thompson for the NSW RFS, who retained the creative account after a competitive pitch in May. Back in 2018, Wunderman Thompson (then J Walter Thompson) launched the ‘How fireproof is your plan?’ campaign. During the 2019-2020 bushfire season, four million dollars of media was donated to the awareness campaign across more than 20 media companies. Last year’s awareness campaign, also by Wunderman Thompson, was built on that same platform.

A side-by-side comparison of stills from the campaign

Wunderman Thompson Australia chief strategy officer Angela Morris said: “Our insight into how to re-engage people in bush fire risk was derived from research that showed awareness of community preparedness is a bigger influence on individual behaviour than telling individuals what to do. Our strategy therefore, was to leverage the behavioural power of social norming and this changed our approach; from the RFS talking to individuals, to those who have experienced the Black Summer bush fires firsthand calling on their peers to remember the risk and to join in on planning and preparing.”

Wunderman Thompson Australia associate creative director Steve Hoy added: “For many Aussies, bush fire is a fact of life, but no one knows the importance of being ready for it better than those that have had to face it first-hand. We thought back to some of the faces of people in the midst of the worst bush fires, immortalised in some terrifying images we’ve all seen over the years. We realised they represent communities that now take their own preparation seriously given what they’ve been through. So they’re a pretty powerful example for everyone else to live bush fire ready too.”

The campaign is on TV, out-of-home, radio, social and digital.


Client: NSW Rural Fire Service
Director of Communications and Engagement, Anthony Clark

Creative Agency: Wunderman Thompson Australia
João Braga, Chief Creative Officer
Simon Koay, Associate Creative Director
Steven Hey, Associate Creative Director
Steve May, Senior Creative
Angela Morris, National Chief Strategy Officer
Carnelian Easton-Jones, Senior Strategist
Ana Lynch, Partner
Laura Hawdon, Group Engagement Lead
Jacqueline Gualdi, Senior Engagement Manager
Alistair Pratten, National Head of Production
Terry Kerr, Senior Producer
Production: FINCH
Director: Kyra Bartley
Producer: Nick Simkins
DOP: James L Brown
Post: AtticusPost
Producer: Kani Saib
Editor: Delaney Murphy
Flame Op: Drew Downes

Media: Atomic 212
Ashleigh Carter – Group Account Director
Ilona Evans – Client Lead
Jay Malig – Planning and Trading Director
Rory Peters – Planning & Trading Assistant
Kate Brown – Planning & Trading Assistant
Benjamin Xu – Performance Director
Matt Baker – Performance Manager
Immanuel Ho – Performance Assistant


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