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Keep Britain Tidy challenges attitudes towards cigarette-butt littering

In partnership with Wavemaker UK, VCCP London and Cowry Consulting, one of the world’s leading Behavioural Science consultancies, Keep Britain Tidy has launched an integrated brand campaign titled ‘Cigarette Butts are Rubbish’.

The campaign was created to stop people dropping cigarette butts, which accounts for 66 per cent of all litter in England and its approach and creative was informed by research carried out with smokers by Cowry Consulting and VCCP Stoke.

Research revealed that although smokers believed littering was a negative behaviour, they did not see their cigarette butts as rubbish – innovative research methods were used to identify not only what smokers say, but also how they feel subconsciously. 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 would not 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 (OOH) 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 O2 takeover includes a two-week behaviour intervention at the O2 arena, serving as an experiment to measure how effective communications can be in reducing the littering of cigarette butts at the O2 Arena. Bespoke campaign materials will be displayed at the O2 Arena, ranging from D/OOH, to floor decals, posters, duck murals, and queue barriers.

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.

Alison Ogden-Newton of Keep Britain Tidy 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, cigarette butts.”

Oli Halliwell, Managing Partner at Wavemaker added: “The use of perceived ‘judgmental’ humour for the ‘You’re not a litterer’ campaign, is a smart way to provoke behavioural change. However, the final part of the puzzle is to ensure the message lands, and resonates, with the target audience at the most relevant moments in their day-to-day lives. We look forward to seeing the impact that this campaign has on smokers’ behaviour, which will mean fewer cigarette butts on the streets.”

Jim Thornton, Executive Creative Director at VCCP, commented: “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 by the smartness, wittiness and weirdness of Sophie and Miles’ brains, the deftness of Andy Mcleod’s direction… and a terrifyingly judgy duck. If this campaign doesn’t work, I will literally eat my fag butts.”

Raphy March, Chief Design & Innovation Officer at Cowry Consulting, concluded: “By pioneering new research techniques to measure the gap between conscious thought and unconscious actions we have created a campaign which is infused with behavioural science learnings and speaks to smokers in a completely different way. By unlocking these hidden insights we’re confident that we can prompt smokers to reassess their behaviours and stop dropping cigarette butts.”

The campaign launches today and will run until 18 December, with a second phase from 5 February until 11 March.

Press release originally published in Creative Salon.

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