ExxonMobil Targets Gen Z in a Big Way With Tiny Science Experiments

BBDO series puts a spotlight on energy innovations

ExxonMobil shares some big ideas about reducing emissions in "Miniature Science," a series of short online films from BBDO that recreate complex energy processes at roughly 1/1,000th of their actual scale. 

Taking its cue from the "tiny video" craze, ExxonMobil stages laboratory demonstrations using very small equipment. Targeting Gen Z, the content dovetails with the company's ads about energy innovation, running on NBC's Sunday Night Football and during college football coverage and NBA games.

In the two clips below, a pint-sized algae farm generates biofuel, which in turn powers some very small engines:

Aww, Tiny Hamster would look cute on that boat. Just sayin'.

Paid teasers on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, and a partnership with Awesomeness TV, drive young-adult eyeballs to the "Miniature Science" playlist on YouTube, where they've amassed nearly 250,000 combined views since June. That's pretty impressive given the nature of the project.

Other installments show a mini power plant converted to natural gas, and a landfill with decomposing food, both of which generated cleaner energy:

In a way, "Miniature Science" inverts the strategy fueling BBDO's popular "Unimpossible Missions" push for General Electric. That campaign from a few years back built interest and excitement by making science seem larger than life. For ExxonMobil, conversely, the bite-sized approach puts a fun, accessible spin on topics that could seem abstract and dry. 

And if this outreach burnishes the brand as it stares down rough headlines, or just softens the company's image in general—well, that's not small potatoes, either.

"This was an opportunity to talk to an audience with no brand predispositions and pull them in with creativity," says BBDO New York senior creative director Mark Girand. "Our Gen Z target consume videos primarily on their phones. They are visual learners, and they care about authenticity. They refuse to be 'sold to,' and they are also extremely design conscious." 

Using no special effects or camera trickery, the demos provide an accurate (albeit slimmed down and simplified) picture of how ExxonMobile's R&D professionals go about their business. "Their ideas and innovations start out in a lab at a very small scale as a means to prove out the science, then scientists and engineers develop them so that they can be deployed at commercial scale, where they can make a meaningful impact," says Girand. 

The algae biofuels program is a prime example, as "what began in a research lab with a microscopic organism in a petri dish could be producing thousands of barrels of biofuel a day just a few years from now," he says.

During production, each experiment was conducted in full, with attention paid to scientific accuracy at every step. To ensure success in that regard, teams from BBDO and production house Nexus Studios logged eight weeks of research and development. 

"By the time we got to the set, everything had already been approved, tested and demonstrated—it became just a matter of filming it," says Lew Willig, also a senior creative director at BBDO.

Production designer Andy Gent and lead art director Collette Pidgeon, who worked on Wes Anderson's feature Isle of Dogs, built the very small models.

Director Lucas Zanotto was tasked with making sure each experiment looked "clean, sparse and high-design," while quickly relating information and maximizing entertainment value, says Willig.

That he managed to do so is no small feat.

CREDITS

ExxonMobil
“Miniature Science”

Agency: BBDO New York
Chief Creative Officer Worldwide: David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer New York: Greg Hahn
Executive Creative Director: Tom Godici
Executive Creative Director: Greg Ketchum
Senior Creative Director: Mark Girand
Senior Creative Director: Lew Willig
Art Director: Delilah Kim
Copywriter: Vera Keiter
Head of Integrated Production: David Rolfe
Executive Producer: Grant Gill
Producer: Ali Gladstone
Sr. Business Manager: Kathy Bannon

Production Company: Nexus Studios
Director: Lucas Zanotto 
Executive Producer: Ollie Allgrove 
Senior Producer: Isobel Conroy
Director of Photography: Toby Howell
Production Designer: Andy Gent
Art Director: Collette Pidgeon

Editorial and Finishing: NO6
Executive Producer: Corina Dennison
Senior Producer: Laura Molinaro
Editor: James Duffy
Assistant Editor: Scott Zeitlan

Mix & Record Company: New Math
Engineer: Marc Healy
Producer: B Muñoz

Music: New Math
Executive Producer: Kala Sherman
Producer: B Muñoz
Creative Director: Raymond Loewy
Creative Director: David Wittman
Composed AFM music: “Candy Shop” (on the long form cuts) - Jared Hunter
“Eenie Weenie” - Dan Sammartano
Licensed Music: “Boss Hog” - Joseph Spallina (On 15's)

Sound Design: New Math
Composers: Marc Healy and Joseph Spallina
Producer: B Muñoz

VO TALENT (on long forms): Sophie Amoss
Agent: Abrams Artists

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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