eobiont was asked to bring the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning to the forefront of public consciousness with a new public awareness campaign. Our strategy was to create an engaging name for the campaign and combine this with a memorable key visual. It would need to be flexible enough for various mediums and stand the test of time.
Approximately 3,900 people are admitted to German clinics due to carbon monoxide poisoning every year, and even more cases go unreported due to general unfamiliarity with the symptoms. A silent killer that cannot be detected by the senses, CO bears no color or odor and slowly, sometimes lethally, puts you to sleep by draining your brain and body of oxygen. The main sources in the home are boilers, fireplaces and any other areas where fuel is burned. It was our job to bring awareness to the problem and inform people as to how they can best protect themselves.
There was a special challenge in coming up with a name in German that is short and catchy.
As this is a German-only campaign, there was a special challenge in coming up with a name in German that is short and catchy. It needed to immediately convey the seriousness without sounding too melodramatic. What resulted was “CO macht KO,” which roughly translates to “CO knocks you out.”
Then we created a Bauhaus style logo for it. However, the name and logo alone didn’t give the campaign enough distinction and memorability in a crowded market. Enter the canary key visual. It provides an engaging way to talk about a serious health topic without being overly scary. Past research has shown that when PSAs are too scary and shocking people tune them out.
Why a canary? Before technological safety instruments, there were birds. Coal miners, who were often confronted with the dangers of CO poisoning, would bring a canary with them into the mines. If the canary stopped singing and suddenly died, the workers knew they had just a few minutes to get out alive. This turned into a common English figure of speech, the “canary in the coalmine.” As a tribute to this old practice, we decided to use a canary as the harbinger of CO poisoning danger. Instead of falling silent, our modern version calls out the alarm that people need to protect themselves.
For an additional visual, we created a shadowy hand superimposed onto photos of people relaxing in otherwise innocuous-looking home settings. This illustrates that people may be unaware of the invisible dangers presented by CO that may be lurking in their own houses.