By any means necessary.

The three phases (“Transformation”, “Enjoy It, Recycle it”, and “How many were yours?”) of CBCRA Recycle Everywhere campaigns had helped the organization set a record for recycling recovery. But an overarching campaign approach made less sense, as research demonstrated that various audiences had different perceptions of the value and ease of recycling.

Compounding this challenge was that recycling was getting harder for audiences to understand. In an effort to do the right thing, they were often unintentionally putting the wrong items in recycling (like coffee cups or half-empty bottles) — a behaviour coined “wish-cycling”. This behaviour resulted in another new term, one that posed a threat to recovery rates worldwide: contamination. By unwittingly contaminating recycling bins, audiences were putting entire batches at risk of being diverted to the landfill and adversely impacting CBCRA’s recovery rates.

One message to all audiences
wasn’t going to cut it.

An effort to educate the public on contamination had started to cause confusion. As a result, even avid recyclers were getting discouraged, and non recyclers used the perceived complexity to justify their resistant behaviours. More than ever before, our message needed to appeal directly to people’s tendencies to recycle. In short, the data told us a single message would not cut it.


What they told us: We can’t be everything to everyone.

The research data story revealed pronounced differences between the self-reported recycling behaviours of adults under 24, over 55, and in between. Younger audiences were skeptical about whether materials end up being recycled at all. Although adults over 25 tended to believe in the value of recycling, they were also aware that they could be more vigilant (something our previous campaign may have helped influence). Adults over 55 were model recyclers, but might require motivation to maintain that behaviour.

To appeal directly to the three different mindsets, we required three different messages. On top of this, the media profiles for each audience varies widely. While each watches television programming and is active on social media, the platforms and devices on which the audiences consume that media varies significantly. Our research also demonstrated that each audience exhibits different preferences for tone: for example, younger adults have a higher tolerance for irreverence than seniors, who tend to be more open to earnest appeals.

We reached a fork in the road. 
Instead of choosing one path, we explored three.

So, an overarching approach — even delivered through multiple creative executions and integrated media planning — ran the risk of not resonating with one or more of these audience segments. We’d reached a fork in the road. But instead of choosing one path, we ventured down three.


What we saw: A need to tailor calls to action to specific audiences.

The fact that the media consumption habits were so drastically varied for audience segments was an opportunity. We could adjust our conversation to share messages that resonate with the audiences most likely to see them on specific media channels. We identified three distinctive strategic objectives: convince younger audiences, encourage older adults, and reinforce behaviour with seniors. These distinct objectives were used to inform creative platforms customized for our audiences and the media they consume most frequently. The creative application for every targetable media vehicle was selected based on the audience it would most likely reach.

Whatever It Takes.

Our creative platforms included three age-segment specific campaigns, all anchored by a common call to action — do whatever it takes to recycle all your empty beverage containers.

For adults under 24, who were skeptical about the value of recycling and more open to irreverence, we created ads depicting absurd scenarios about what might happen as a result of not recycling — where, for instance, an aluminum bike frame you’re riding vanishes, or the poly-filled sleeping bag you’re hiding underneath disappears.

For adults 25-54, we created characters Bernie and Gracie: two anthropomorphic raccoons who educate their human ‘neighbours’ about what does and doesn’t belong in the recycling bin. Through a series of deeper content marketing, including an online-only mailbag and social media contests, this campaign platform directly tackled the contamination issue for our largest audience segment.

For adults over 55, a series of more authentic and heartfelt campaign assets were developed. The first featured the real story of Bennet, an 11-year old boy and budding entrepreneur who began his own recycling collection business at his family’s cottage community. A documentary style video was shot and edited for broadcast and social content. A broadcast ad (for TV and online video) followed, reminding the audience that we set an example for the generations that watch our behaviour.

Tying all three integrated creative approaches together was a common theme line: “Enjoy it. Recycle it.” The straightforward approach not only unified the various campaign assets, but provided a memorable call to action, irrespective of beverage type or beverage consumer.


A stratified message helped CBCRA maintain a recovery rate of 69%, on par with previous years’ results. This included a significant increase in recovery for polyethalene (PET) containers in particular, which in 2018 reached 77% recovery in Manitoba for the first time since the program was introduced.

Despite a stratified campaign approach, which ran the risk of individual audience segments seeing fewer advertisements overall compared to previous years, CBCRA’s incredible unaided recall maintained at 76%. This performance suggests that each creative platform resonated with exactly the right people, with precisely the right messages.


recovery of PET containers.


unaided recall.