Two sides to every story.

When McKim was first engaged by the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association (CBCRA), the initial challenge was to encourage Manitobans to see the value in every beverage container, and to recycle each one every time. Through successive campaigns, we sought to do just that, adjusting the message to respond to changes in public opinion research results, year after year.

But with complexity around recycling increasing, that same opinion research showed that Manitobans were becoming increasingly confused about recycling. With recovery rates plateauing, it was important for us to tackle resistant behaviours head-on.

What they told us: Promote the “do’s” and the “don’ts”

At the onset of campaign planning, there were two issues at play. First, the overall number of containers being recycled in the province was actually on the rise, as the number of containers sold (and beverages consumed) had increased over previous years. This indicated that Manitobans were getting the message. At the same time, contamination (putting non-recyclable materials, food waste or half-empty containers in bins) was also on the rise, and posed an ever-greater threat to the recovery and recycling of those containers.

All of this coincided with the CBCRA’s plans to pursue a litter reduction initiative through earned media activity and community engagement – a message which needed to be supported in the public awareness campaign.

What we saw: Two compatible campaign voices, with two distinct messages

In early concept exploration, we recommended that one campaign couldn’t effectively and clearly encourage recycling while it also discouraged contamination-related habits and littering. They were conflicting messages that said, ‘do this,’ but, ‘don’t do that.’ However, three distinct campaigns — one for each of the themes recycle/don’t contaminate/don’t litter — also posed challenges.

We recommended combining these messages under two campaigns — what we internally referenced as the ‘DO’ and ‘DON’T’ campaigns. Each would have a similar tone to ensure the authorship would be clear and consistent, but the creative look and messaging would vary so as to avoid confusion.

The “DO” campaign:

Evolving “The Right Stuff” to emphasize desired behaviours

We leaned into the anthropomorphic characters we created for the previous year’s “The Right Stuff” campaign to carry the banner for reminding Manitobans about the value of recycling. With that campaign still fresh in their minds, we didn’t have to re-explain that these containers are the “right” materials to recycle. This afforded us the ability to add a message that reinforced the notion that recycling matters — for those who continue to doubt.

This strategic approach was a tether back to annual focus group results, which continued to demonstrate that the number one reason for recycling remains that materials can be transformed and have a new life. Knowing this, our scenarios evolved the transformation concept to support this year’s campaign line, “Believe In The Bin”.

Social assets provide a deeper level of engagement online. Leveraging the interactivity of Instagram stories, we developed quizzes that featured our characters to test users’ recycling knowledge.

The “DON’T” campaign:

Positioning littering and contaminating as taboo behaviours

Negative advertising is always a tricky proposition. Unlike most social campaigns (including our ‘DO’ campaign,) which encourages a behaviour or a belief, asking an audience not to do something runs the risk of positioning a brand as officious or pushy.

To soften this message, we couched the campaign in colloquial language. For each individual creative asset, we showed something surprising — whether tongue-in-cheek Instagram applications or awe-inspiring video — with a nonchalant reaction: ‘Cool.’ Whenever an unacceptable litter/contamination action is introduced into the scenario, it’s swiftly met by the reaction, ‘Never cool.

Even while panicked during an alien abduction, it’s still not OK to drop your beverage containers on the ground. No matter how giant that gorilla may be, throwing your banana peel into the blue bin will always be a big no-no. Sure, moving a half-full bottle with your mind is impressive, but anyone with a brain should know to empty it before recycling it.

By contrasting fantastical scenarios with firm guidance, the campaign is lighter-hearted, yet uncompromising on the issues of litter and contamination. A clear and absolute position on the issues helps position littering and contaminating blue bins as taboo behaviours, no matter the circumstance.

While the campaign’s videos were originally envisioned as live-action scenarios, our pivot to animation (due to the impact of COVID-19 on the production industry) enhanced each individual message, without compromising on the overriding tone and message of the campaign.