Keep Britain Tidy launches ‘Cigarette Butts are Rubbish’ integrated campaign

David Murphy

UK-based environmental charity, Keep Britain Tidy, has launched an integrated brand campaign titled ‘Cigarette Butts are Rubbish’, in partnership with VCCP LondonWavemaker UK and Cowry Consulting.

The campaign was created to stop people dropping cigarette butts, which account for 66 per cent of all litterin England (source: Keep Britain Tidy) and its approach and creative was informed by research carried out with smokers by Cowry Consulting and VCCP Stoke.

The research 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. This will include a takeover at the O2 in London and a 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 activity. Further media activations have been devised to illustrate the positive outcome of ‘good’ behaviour, including unlocking ad-free content on streaming services and bespoke in-game advertising.

The O2 takeover includes a 2-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 DOOH, 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.

“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,” said Alison Ogden-Newton of Keep Britain Tidy. “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.”

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