But, the Hong Kong Clean Up Initiative, a non-profit anti-littering group, teamed up with Ogilvy-Mather to address the problem by publicly shaming litter bugs in what they are calling The Face of Litter campaign.
In order to change behaviors, the group uses DNA collected from discarded cigarette butts, gum and condoms to create renderings of the faces of people who left their trash, which are then broadcast on massive billboards around town.
More than 27 facial composites have been created and displayed so far around the city.
Some people have said this campaign is “creepy” and goes too far.
I have to say, I think it is pure genius.
Changing people’s behavior is one of the most difficult tasks in all of marketing.
There are only a few things that truly drive behavior change:
- Give new meaning to the existing behavior.
- Engage directly with change agents.
- Create guilt or shame.
- Create legislation.
I grew up with two of the most successful anti-litter campaigns in history:
- Keep America Beautiful (The Crying Indian) a shame-driven campaign created by Paul B. Gioni
- Harold Bell’s Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute campaign, which became direct engagement when Woodsy visited my elementary school.
These campaigns worked. I saw it for myself as the landscape of our highways transformed from garbage dumps to litter-free roads with corporate sponsors to keep them that way. Of course, the new fines for littering also played a major role.
This Face of Litter campaign is clearly shame-driven.
Everyone knows not to litter.
Everyone gets embarrassed AND does the right thing when they are busted for it.
I once saw someone in a grocery store parking lot open his car door and drop fast food bags on the ground. You can imagine his surprise, when I walked up, tapped on his window, held his trash out to him and said, “I believe you dropped this.” He pretended it was an accident and thanked me as he took his trash back.
Just this weekend, while enjoying the Jazz Festival here in Atlanta, my 11 year old step-daughter commented on a girl and her mom who casually dropped their trash on the ground as they walked past us. When the girl’s mom heard my step-daughter’s surprise and my response that “litter bugs are the worst” – the mom doubled back to pick up the garbage and put it in the trash can just steps away.
That’s why I know this campaign will work.
Everyone knows littering is wrong. They just need to be called out for it.
Now, the campaign isn’t straight up public shaming and there is no real invasion of privacy because Ogilvy says they received permission from every person whose trash they picked up.
But, with the threat of the world knowing that you are a litter-bug, I am willing to bet that the citizens of Hong Kong will think twice before dropping their trash in the street again.