Who’s Picking Up Your Litter? Litter Kills Campaign

Here’s a challenge for you.

Next time you see somebody deliberately dropping litter, pick it up – hand it back, and politely ask them to put it in the bin.

Actually – on second thoughts, you might like to think twice.

I hate litter. Britain has a serious litter problem and I made a promise years ago to confront every single person I see dropping litter. No compromise.

The response? Invariably angry – and occasionally violent. One guy in Soho was so incensed he brought a whole street to a standstill. Another guy who had just dropped his cigarette box on the path thanked me and threw the box back down again because “It’s OK. It’s empty”.

Most people don’t care about litter. But most people do care about being told by strangers what to do. No matter how polite the request.

This is a bit of personal background to an Ad brief Clean Up Britain (CLUB) dropped onto our Agency Desk at System1. Finally – an opportunity to move beyond personal confrontation – and think about how to inspire littering behavioural change in a different way (and save my neck at the same time).

We needed to find a way that emotionally engages 16-35 year olds with the litter problem – without telling them what to do. Get them to care by dramatising the consequences of litter pollution in a way that means something to them.

The market research and insight behind the campaign came from the universal truth that whilst we might not be a nation of clean city lovers, we are definitely a nation of animal lovers. And we had lots of information from the RSPCA showing the deadly impact of litter on the UK’s animal population. In one study they shared with us : of 2,174 littered bottles and cans collected from British Roadsides – 230 had dead animals inside. The RSPCA estimates that 3.2 million small animals end up dying this way every year.

This is how the Clean Up Britain Litter Kills campaign was born.

A simple campaign idea showing the impact of dropped litter on animals.

Every image in the campaign is real – and there are thousands of images to choose from.

The campaign is deliberately hard hitting and designed to drive emotional engagement. We know that the more people feel after seeing advertising, the more likely they are to engage – and act.

So how is the campaign doing? Litter Kills scored 5-Stars in testing … that is – one of the UK’s most emotionally engaging ads of the past 20 years (top 4%).           It is currently running in the North of England – and we are closely monitoring to what extent it changes behaviours. This won’t happen over night. These things take time.

But little by little we are confident we will see a step change in fewer litter related animal deaths, a tidier environment – and less abuse in the street towards me!

The Litter Kills Campaign was developed by Simon Allen and Malcolm Duffy at System1


At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident, creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand testing tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.


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