Re-Thinking Recycling: 4 Ways to Revitalize an Old Issue

At our 62nd Annual Public Service Award Dinner on November 11th, we presented the silver CAdalyst Award to Pereira & O’Dell, Unilever and Vevo for their work on our Recycling campaign. This was the first year of the CAdalyst Awards; our highest honor to recognize creative excellence and social impact.

When Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council took on the issue of recycling, we defined our responsibility as educating people to better understand the “how, what, where and why” of recycling, while motivating them to recycle more and in the right way.

In some ways, though, recycling can be seen as an “old” issue. It’s not shocking, and it’s not breaking news and yet, we’ve seen great results. Now in its second year, this award-winning campaign recently passed the $116 million mark in donated media support. Through December 2015, there have been 3 million visits to the campaign website and a more than 725 percent increase in Facebook followers since the campaign’s launch.

We spoke with Mike Rosen, SVP of Marketing and Communications for Keep America Beautiful about a few of the campaign tactics that made it particularly successful. Here’s what we learned:

1. Don’t start from scratch

If consumers are already familiar with an issue, give them a new way to think about it.

In the development phase of the “I Want To Be Recycled” campaign, we conducted research around messaging for consumers and the results were clear — Americans want to recycle. Approximately two-thirds of respondents said recycling is a very important issue, citing its potential positive impact on the economy, public health, the environment, and waste reduction, among other benefits.

They also think that they do recycle. The problem is just that they’re not recycling all the time. Our task was to get people who think that they’re already doing things right to do even more.

The result is campaign creative that seeks to inspire the nearly two in three Americans who do not recycle regularly to make recycling a daily habit by cleverly showing the viewer that an individual can “Give Your Garbage Another Life” by choosing to recycle.

2. Think big, but work small

Don’t forget the power of a local-level push.

In addition to driving strong awareness on the national level, the work we’re doing at the local level is, perhaps, the most exciting. In addition to the national effort, Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council have made campaign assets available to cities and states that can, in turn, localize them to support recycling at the local level.

One of the most significant city partnerships is with the City of Austin. Austin, in an effort to help reach its goal of keeping 50 percent of its trash out of landfills by the end of 2015, signed on as a partner of the campaign in 2014. The City is working with its trash and recycling department, the Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) and Keep America Beautiful’s local affiliate, Keep Austin Beautiful, to localize the campaign by distributing campaign educational materials to schools and other civic organizations and by placing the PSA campaign with local media partners.

Data collected by the City of Austin indicates an increase in the amount of recycled materials per household during the time period when the PSA was placed in local media, as compared with the same time period the previous year. Supporting survey data shows that recognition of the campaign advertising nearly doubled in a five-month period. Moreover, there was a statistically significant increase in agreement among survey respondents that:

  • Recycling is a major way to reduce wasteful use of land for landfills (88 percent to 94 percent); and
  • Recycling creates opportunities to make new products (83 percent to 89 percent)

3. Complement offline activations with online communities

Social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr — as well as promotional partnerships with digital content leaders such as Vevo and Zooppa — provide a powerful, cost-effective platform to extend the reach of the campaign while driving new creative content. We’ve had great success using social to give consumers the opportunity to add their creative voice to the campaign. It has become a campaign with a constant community dialogue and active participation, rather than being a campaign that simply preaches the benefits of recycling.

4. Plan for the future

Once you’ve had success, you’ve got to keep the momentum strong.

In 2015, the “I Want To Be Recycled” campaign gained momentum by focusing new creative beyond bottles and cans onto other everyday but not “top of mind” consumer products, which can and should be given another life through recycling. These include many personal care items commonly found in the bathroom such as body wash, shampoo and mouthwash bottles.

A series of new broadcast and digital PSAs were launched in March 2015, in partnership with Unilever, aimed to address this issue by educating Americans about how, through recycling, empty bath and beauty bottles can fuel the creation of packaging for new products, or take on new life to return as hairbrushes, backpacks or other consumer products.

As we start 2016, it is our hope to continue to expand our focus to other hard to recycle or not “top of mind” consumer products and continue to educate, motivate and activate people to recycle every day.

This post originally appeared on AdLibbing.org.

Feb 16 By: Meg Rushton

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