Keep Britain Tidy ‘Butts are Rubbish’: No ifs or buts

keep britain tidyIt is fair to say that Keep Britain Tidy is nothing if not persistent. Originally set up in 1955, over the years it has run numerous cinema and TV ad campaigns backed by its “Tidyman” logo, featuring Abba, Marc Bolan, the Bee Gees, The Wombles and even Steptoe and Son. However, it seems, the message has still not got through to everyone.

Enter a new integrated brand campaign titled Cigarette Butts are Rubbish, being run in partnership with VCCP London, Wavemaker UK and behavioural science specialist Cowry Consulting.

The campaign is based on the fact that cigarette butts account for a staggering 66% of all litter, with the creative strategy informed by research carried out with smokers by Cowry Consulting and VCCP Stoke.

This revealed that although smokers believed littering was a negative behaviour, they didn’t see their cigarette butts as rubbish. It was this contradiction in thinking and feeling that allowed smokers to feel dropping the occasional cigarette butt was okay.

Extensive research and a behavioural literature review also made clear that shaming smokers would result in them switching off to any instruction. It was therefore important to find a way to modify smokers’ behaviour without alienating them.

Humour and empathy are proven to be excellent tools to encourage people to dispose of their rubbish correctly. Added to this it was key to campaign success that the messenger chosen to deliver the news was likeable and able to cast judgement while provoking the right emotional response.

The resulting approach is an omnichannel campaign featuring a duck who casts judgement on a smoker’s behaviour without shaming the individual, allowing them to see the error of their ways. The duck acts as a silent observer, who can in a non-confrontational way point out how smokers wouldn’t dream of littering crisp packets or water bottles, so why on earth would they litter a cigarette butt?

Wavemaker UK is responsible for all media planning and buying for the campaign. Media activations will appear on high-profile AV launch spots across England, Wales, and Scotland to ensure the core message reaches and lands with its target audience. This will include a takeover at the O2 in London and mural in Manchester.

Running in parallel will be tactical media communications at key points of action, such as targeted out-of-home in high indexing locations as well as audio, podcast sponsorship and social. Further media activations have been devised to illustrate the positive outcome of a ‘good’ behaviour, including unlocking ad-free content on streaming services and bespoke in-game advertising.

The accompanying PR campaign will be implemented by Good Relations, and launched with a stunt where a mound of rubbish representing 225,000 butts was installed on Kingston High Street.

Keep Britain Tidy managing director Alison Ogden-Newton said: “We wanted to create advertising that used best in class behavioural science to really speak to our audience, and we are thrilled with the output.

“Our charming feathered friend delivers an important message to smokers, who do not realise the devastating impact that their litter has on our environment. We are thrilled with the campaign and believe it will have a real impact on what is currently the UK’s most littered item.”

VCCP executive creative director Jim Thornton added: “As a smoker who believed that littering was anti-social but ciggy butts didn’t count, I am the man in this campaign. (Not literally, obviously. I have more hair). But I’m proud to say I have been suitably reformed. If this campaign doesn’t work, I will literally eat my fag butts.”

So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office?

Well, they have tried many things – even this ad from back in the day which carried the strapline “Use a bin. It beats getting your bird nicked by a logo” – so using a “bird” of the feathered variety has got to be worth a shot.

It is still quite staggering how many people drop their cigarette butts, even though you can be fined for doing so. Still, anything that helps has got to be welcomed. If not, at least we might get some amusement at seeing Jim Thornton eating his own.

Decision Marketing Adometer: A ‘stub out this behaviour’  7 out of 10

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