Drawing a Music Video with MEC and Sarah Harmer

What if you could create a music video using drawings by thousands of fans?

That’s the idea that Capulet recommended to outdoor gear retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), as part of our work on their multi-year conservation campaign, The Big Wild. Capulet brokered a partnership between MEC and Canadian singer-songwriter, Sarah Harmer, to launch a digital campaign called Drawn to the Wild

Canadians were invited to participate in the campaign by making artistic contributions to Harmer’s “I’m a Mountain” video. Members were asked to use web-based drawing tools to trace or enhance one of the thousands of frames that comprised the original music video.

This campaign was designed to raise awareness for threatened Canadian landscapes. For every re-envisioned frame submitted on the website, Mountain Equipment Co-op donated funds for Protecting Escarpment Rural Land (PERL), Harmer’s environmental organization dedicated to protecting the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario.

“The Niagara Escarpment’s survival as a unique natural environment is seriously threatened. Drawn to the Wild is one way Canadians can both support its protection and collaborate with me and each other in a fun and creative way.” – Sarah Harmer

Drawn to the Wild was one of many campaigns and platforms we invented and developed for MEC over our five years of work with them. With Drawn to the Wild, we created something fresh and fun for the MEC audience, who are regularly contacted via email marketing, advertising and social media about environmental campaigns. 

Where did this idea come from? We’re advocates of “distealing”–distilling an idea you stole. In this case, Drawn to the Wild was inspired by the remarkable Johnny Cash Project, which was way ahead of its time back in 2009. The world of marketing is full of the pretence of originality. When you’re inspired by other projects, it’s very important that you acknowledge those sources. We acknowledged the Johnny Cash Project on the project website and in MEC’s communications about it. 

We worked with Agentic Digital Media, who designed and developed the microsite. They developed a user experience that was fun and straightforward to use. Importantly, it also  enabled MEC staff to vet and organize submissions. Frames were added to the video on the fly so that participants could click play to watch the music video take shape right before their eyes.

Lessons Learned

What lessons did we take away from this project?

  • Don’t assume too little of your customers or supporters. While drawing on a video frame was fun, it was much more complicated and time-consuming than entering an email address or tweeting a message of support. This was a ‘high-friction ask.’ The average visitors spent six minutes on their frame, so we created a how-to video to walk users through the process. Still, the average user of Drawn to the Wild actually submitted two frames, and two enthusiastic contributors drew over 50 frames each.
  • Your celebrity partner’s digital reach really matters. While Sarah Harmer is a household name in Canada, she wasn’t particularly active online. While we were grateful for her assistance in promoting the campaign, her contributions didn’t make much of a difference. We can contrast this with our work with Ian Somerhalder at the United Nations. His millions of social media followers were a powerful asset in telling the story of climate change innovators.
  • Ask yourself, “what does the web love?” Deriving inspiration from something that’s already succeeded on the web reduces your risk and gives you a blueprint for success.


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