FCB and UTEC’s Latest Green Innovation Is a Plant-Powered Lamp for Remote Peru

And then there was light

FCB Mayo and Peruvian engineering college UTEC—the folks behind award-winning ventures like the "Potable Water Generator," "Purifying Billboard" and "Air Orchard"—are back with what may well be their brightest idea yet.

This time around, they tout the wonder and everyday relevance of science and engineering by bringing electric light to Nuevo Saposoa, an isolated community in the Peruvian rainforest with no electricity. And they do so by harnessing the photosynthetic properties of plants.

In the clip below, we learn how the ingenious lighting system converts nutrients from plants into energy that can be stored in conventional batteries, allowing specially designed lamps to function for about two hours a day.

Behold, a whole new kind of power plant:

In a chat with AdFreak, Humberto Polar, CEO and chief creative officer of FCB Mayo and regional creative director of FCB Latin America, shed light on how UTEC's plant lamp project came together.

AdFreak: What was the genesis of the idea?
Humberto Polar: We discovered that many of the communities in the jungles of Peru that had fallen victim to a recent flood were unable to access electricity. We teamed with the university to, hopefully, discover a way to generate clean energy for the villagers.

The idea grew from something many schoolchildren around the world learn—how to create energy with a potato. From the same basic principles, the university found a way to create energy using soil. Then they developed a prototype using the specific supplies of that part of the jungle to make it a 100 percent sustainable project.

The location looks pretty remote.
It was a real adventure going to Saposoa. You go by plane to a city named Pucallpa, and then it takes a couple of days to get there by boat across the river. There are pirates who frequently assault the boats, so it is no wonder that villagers often don't get the help they need. Once there, it was a fantastic experience, especially for the group of UTEC students who explained the basics of the technology to the community.

At first, did the villagers doubt that plants could actually power the lamps?
Of course some people were skeptical. But in the end, the team, including the agency, spent a whole week to make sure the lamps were working and to teach the villagers to fix the problems that may show up. We made 20 lamps that are evenly distributed among the families for communal use. The next step of this campaign is to raise enough funds to take 100 more lamps. We're looking for donors and sponsors to help UTEC provide a solution to this real problem in the Peruvian jungle.

What's the big takeaway for viewers?
Of course the film generates empathy for the villagers, but at the end of the day what is more important for us is making sure that the strategy and execution of the creative hits at the very core of the brand. This is not another brand trying to save the world. It's an engineering university that is trying to attract students to build its business and its brand.

How do you gauge the success of these campaigns?
Since we started working with UTEC, when they launched the brand four years ago, we have increased the total number of students interested in engineering. They have also made alliances with some of the top engineering schools in the U.S.—MIT, Harvard and Purdue—to offer students a more collaborative platform for ultimate job preparedness. UTEC has become a real option for students looking to study engineering. It is truly remarkable seeing them compete with [those famous] universities.

What's your view on big corporations, like Coca-Cola, launching tech-focused, socially-driven campaigns?
Well, I understand that many companies have social responsibility campaigns that show their target that they have a social vision. I have nothing against that. But UTEC is different. The only marketing strategy of UTEC is to show how real-world engineering projects can inspire future students.

I've heard criticism about social cases that apparently are done just for the sake of festivals [such as the Cannes Lions]. It's not what we do. The marketing team of UTEC works extremely hard and spends a lot of time and money taking ideas from concept to prototype because it's the best way of selling their product.