Noise pollution and dwindling energy sources; two issues that are particularly prevalent in modern living.

In a clever synergy of brand ethos and social responsibility, Peugeot and agency BETC have figured out a way to counter one issue with the other to create the first billboard that can convert excess sound into useable power.

With the Recycle the noise, silence the city project, the brand, agency and interactive production company makemepulse developed technology that could harness an advertising hoarding, composed of thousands of acoustic sensors with piezoelectric properties, to charge electric vehicles using city noise. 

We spoke to Thierry Lonziano, Peugeot's global marketing and communications director, Rémi Babinet, founder and president of the BETC Group and Antoine Ughetto, Co-founder & Head of Innovation at makemepulse about the execution and technical limitations of such an audacious scheme.

Peugeot – Recycle The Noise, Silence The City

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Where did the idea for this project come from?

Thierry Lonziano, Peugeot - Our brand promise is 'unboring the future'. All of our R&D is aimed at offering our clients the maximum driving pleasure and experience. 

Contrary to the sterile and frankly boring vision that we can often have about electric cars, this e-208 project is rooted in Peugeot’s 'unboring' DNA and is therefore the perfect demonstration of this mindset where we always innovate and go further. 

Remi Babinet, BETC - We started with a strong insight into cities’ problems: noise pollution. 

We thought “what could be more valuable and satisfying in our noisy cities than the silence brought by the Peugeot e-208 and acoustic piezoelectricity?”, illustrating Peugeot’s vision at the same time. 

How did you find out about acoustic piezoelectricity and its potential?

RB - The team found some projects about acoustic piezoelectricity while looking for ideas on reducing noise levels and dug up some data to build on. 

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The technology used is still fairly new and experimental; at what point in the campaign journey did you know that this would work and how long did it take to figure that out?

RB - As the technology is still in its early stages, it was crucial to work with our technical consultant and our production partner, makemepulse, to check if the idea was really feasible. 

We began testing a small number of sensors put together to see if the power could be used to charge the e-208. It took two months of tests before we were finally able to produce our billboard.

What were the most challenging aspects of working with this technology?

Antoine Ughetto, makemepulse - The real challenge was to improve the sensors’ efficiency in order to create an electric current compatible with a charging station. 

As the technology is still very experimental, we were not sure it could be mixed with the city network and charge the car. 

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How important a part do you think new and evolving tech will play for brands and their advertising in the next few years?

TL - Technologies bring the real changes in our business and they are coming faster and faster. 

It pushes us to go further and faster in the evolution of our product cycle, with the arrival of autonomous and connected cars, without losing what we stand for: pleasure. 

RB - Technologies also have a huge impact on communication. 

AI changed the way we conceive and distribute our messages and tomorrow voice will impact us in a tremendous way, with more than 50% of google searches done with voice in the coming years. 

Is there sometimes a danger of clients/agencies latching onto a piece of tech because it's new, rather than because it's a relevant addition to their brand message?

RB - Of course. We are constantly looking for new tech and innovations at the agency, ones that we can offer to our clients to go further; it’s our role and it is key for our clients. 

But we always look at them through the brand’s spectrum—what does it bring, is it aligned with our strategy? 

TL - It is exactly what 'unboring the future' is about: no empty innovations and useless tech but R&D that develops the future of mobility in an exciting way.