Kate (one of our student designers) went to a Martin Creed exhibition and returned raving about his ‘half the air in a given space’ installation – a room full of white balloons. There is something innately playful and free about balloons, which makes being submerged in them both hilarious and memorable. Always ready to act on insight and inspiration, we drew from her experience to create a balloon pit in Grimsby’s Freshney Place shopping centre as part of one of our social norms projects.


EMU Grimsby is the second wave of a larger social norms campaign that originally sought to counter a lack of awareness of factual smoking statistics in East and West Marsh, and has since narrowed in to focus on Grimsby. It was commissioned by North East Lincolnshire Council and carried out in conjunction with Enfuse, who are a youth community development team within VANEL (voluntary action north east Lincolnshire). The basic principle of social norms is to discourage certain behaviours (here, smoking) by countering perceptions of how popular or common the activity is. The reality is that the majority of Grimsby residents do not smoke, but many believe the opposite to be true. Our task was the spread the word – that in actual fact 6 out of 10 Grimbarians chose not to smoke.

The emu became the symbol of the campaign, appealing to people’s curiosity, getting them to engage and interact, asking “why an emu?”. An interesting aspect of social norms plays on this natural thirst for knowledge – people want to know things, they want to be right, they want to hold beliefs which are factual, and that’s part of the reason this sort of campaign can be so effective. We played this up throughout the project, using the He knew, She knew and Who knew family of slogans/hashtags in order to emphasise the importance and desirability of knowledge, and to encourages the people of Grimsby to reevaluate their assumptions surrounding smoking. Although the overall campaign is aimed at Grimbarians of all ages the Balloon Pit activity was particularly to target teenagers and young adults.


A balloon pit was set up in the Enfuse shop in Freshney Place Shopping Centre in Grimsby. This activity was part of their Lifestyle Week itinerary. Members of the public were asked how many people in Grimsby (out of 10) they believed choose to smoke, and required to answer by diving into the balloon pit and retrieving the balloon with the relevant number on it. We would then discuss their answer with them, why they chose it and so on, before revealing the truth and asking what they thought of the actual value. Any participants that selected the correct response (that only 4 out 10 smoke, with 6 out of 10 choosing NOT to smoke) had their twitter handles added to the leaderboard. These would go into a draw on the final day, with the winner receiving a £50 Freshney Place voucher. To supplement this, we had a stall outside in the main area of the centre, where we directed people to the shop and balloon pit, and also used balloons on sticks to encourage people to create a more immediate version of the competition; participants just had to try and select the balloon printed with the correct answer. This was really effective because it was a quick activity, making it easy to get people to participate. Also, because we were walking around in full view with lots of balloons and cameras, people were generally intrigued and came over to enquire as to what was going on. There was also a further £50 voucher prize, to be awarded to the winner of the scratch card draw on the final day. As well as being a fun activity for those present, we wanted to report heavily on the event via social media in order to create a nostalgic style of legacy and drive visits for the subsequent days (the activity lasted the weekend). Over the course of the launch day we were filming a promotional video to commemorate the fun, and once released it will help to further spread the social norms message.

Overall, the day was a big success! Participants were fairly unanimous in their assumption that 6-10/10 Grimbarians were smokers, and reactions to the correct answer (4 out of 10 smoke, 6 out of 10 chose NOT to smoke) were all of surprise, with some pleasantly so and others just plain shock/disbelief. There was a steady flow of visitors throughout the day, all of which seemed to enjoy the pit – we even had a few thank yous to the twitter account.

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With twitter as the main platform, we chose mainly to stick to photographic/multimedia content as this would stand out on the feed – the general rule is that photo posts are up to 80% more engaging than text alone. Photo and video collage grids were used as this is a current trend among the young adult age bracket, and it helped give a more subversive and complete view of the experience. As expected, these posts received the most attention. We also used testimonials to help create the desired spirit of legacy. Naturally, there was more interaction surrounding the tweets with handles included, but not all visitors provided this information; it was generally only given by those who chose the right balloon and had a chance to win the voucher. Live tweeting showed that the event was busy, and hopefully drove people to the shop on the subsequent days. People were told both competition results would be announced via Twitter and Facebook which appears to have garner a few more followers. We made sure to use #EMU, #WhoKnew, #SheKnew etc frequently, in order to keep the Emu campaign theme running – this was important as we were tweeting and posting from Enfuse Grimsby accounts (rather than EMU ones).


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As well as interest shown on social media, 10 new volunteers signed up to Enfuse over the course of Lifestyle week at the shop. Bayard Tarpley had this to say:

‘I don’t doubt for a second that our success in Lifestyle Week was in no small part due to the help of Finn and Maya’s ideas and charisma in getting people excited about and in the door of the shop and the balloon pit especially; which, as some of the comments on our Facebook and Twitter show was a massive hit.’

‘Thanks again to everyone at Magpie and Aberration Films; that balloon pit has definitely been a highlight of the event and one of the most fun things I’ve been able to work on in this job.’