Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Protecting the skies over Texas

Every year, migratory birds travel through Texas to reach their destination. Many of them migrate at night, when street lamps and building lights shine bright. During peak migration months, artificial lights can pose a danger and often cause death for millions of migratory birds traveling at night. Inspired by our love of the Texas sky and all the wildlife in it, we developed a campaign to raise awareness and encourage Texans to turn off the lights. 

The Challenge: Reduce Unnecessary Light Pollution

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has dedicated itself to advancing its mission of understanding and conserving the natural world—with a specific focus on birds. According to research, light pollution emitted from Texas cities, especially DFW and Houston, attracts and disorients birds—causing millions of them to fatally collide with buildings and windows. To reduce non-essential light output during peak migration times, Cornell Labs partnered with Schaefer to create a PSA campaign to drive measurable change. The “Lights Out” initiative was designed to raise awareness around the issue and show Texans that saving millions of migratory birds is as easy as flipping a switch.

Protecting the Skies Over Texas

Our biggest challenge was utilizing data to create an emotional response, ultimately driving people to not only pay attention, but to act. We focused our attention on the two groups who could make the biggest difference—residents and commercial building owners/operators. With a nod toward Texas’ unofficial motto “Don’t Mess With Texas” and an appeal to Texan pride, we created the Protect the Skies Over Texas campaign. 

Utilizing hard-hitting facts and direct language, we developed a message that spoke to our key audiences. The language paired with clean typography and bold visuals to make the campaign difficult to ignore. And easy to act on. To track the effectiveness of our planned media, we invited Texans to pledge to flip the switch on nonessential lighting.

Meaningful change begins within our communities, so we connected with local leaders and business owners to ensure the campaign messaging we delivered inspired people to make a difference—in the air and on the ground.