Litter Hong Kong

A Billboard that Identifies People Who Litter

Do you have an opinion on people who litter?  Almost everyone does. Unfortunately, for those living in crowded urban areas, it’s really just a fact of life. Governments and societies try to crack down on it, but many people just don’t listen.

One anti-litter group decided that enough was enough, and they took a fairly radical step to fight the problem.  But, did they cross any ethical lines themselves?  That’s up to you to decide.

The Faces of Litter

The Problem

Hong Kong is a city full of people.  As a matter of fact, the more than 7 million inhabitants crammed into such a small place ranks it as the fourth most densely populated region on the planet.

That many people always adds up to a logistical nightmare when it comes to waste disposal, but it doesn’t help that littering seems to be the official sport.  Every day, there is more than 16,000 tons of waste dumped in the city, and this has given life to the Hong Kong Cleanup Initiative.  The organization’s name is pretty straightforward about what they do, but you might be surprised to learn that they literally launched an in-your-face campaign to combat the problem.

Litter Hong Kong

Basics of the Campaign

The government has already tried many methods of going after this problem, so the campaign had to find a unique way of getting to people.  There are pretty hefty fines given to anyone caught littering, but that just wasn’t motivational enough.  This led the environmental group to team up with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong to try and put together something that would really get people listening.  So, the strategy decided on for this campaign was to do a bit of shaming for the litterbugs in society.

They Even Found the Perfect Day to Do It

This whole project was called the Face of Litter Campaign, and they had the perfect day to launch it:  Earth Day.  Leading up to it, teams had worked to collect garbage, and they managed to pick up more than 4,000 tons from the streets.  Then, they gave it to some scientists to work their magic.

What Tech Did They Need to Do It?

Scientists at Parabon NanoLabs used Snapshot™ DNA phenotyping to analyze who had touched the various garbage samples, and this allowed them to make a digital drawing of the litterbug responsible for each individual piece.  They tended to focus on bits of garbage that would have physical bits of people left behind, and some of the favorites were coffee cups, cigarette butts, and condoms.  This technology has the ability to predict eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, shape of the face, and a lot more about people just from a tiny amount of their DNA.  It may sound like something out of science fiction, but that’s the world we live in today.

Do Not Litter Outdoor Media

What Did It Accomplish?

The Hong Kong Cleanup Initiative has some great programs in place to clean up the trash.  Unfortunately, they were really stuck in the pattern of cleaning up after people, and they weren’t having much success in preventing littering in the first place.  That’s where this campaign really helped out – it got people talking.  In only two weeks, it managed to get 3.9 million engagements on social media, and $5 million in earned media coverage.

Advertising vs. Activism

This campaign was very successful by many measurements, but it does raise some ethical questions.  The pictures that were shown were generated drawings of theoretical people, but is it appropriate to publicly shame people?  Even if it works to solve a problem, it can cause harm to people who may or may not deserve it.  We don’t have the answer to this, it’s really up to you and your own personal beliefs.

Science!

A major takeaway from this campaign is how science can be used in advertising.  It’s likely that this whole project would have been far less interesting if they had simply taken photographs of people caught in the act of littering.  It really stands out because of the amazing science that many people didn’t realize was possible, but then it was the perfect chance to convey the message once it had everyone’s attention.

How far will your advertising go?

Have you ever done anything similar to get your message across?  You don’t necessarily have to be so aggressive with your advertising tactics, but this doesn’t change the fact that pulling stunts like this will get you talked about.  So, don’t be afraid to push the limits, but make sure you’re thinking about your image as a whole before you do anything too crazy.

If you’re not sure how to do this on your own, just give us a call.  We’re ready to hear your ideas!

Billboard Reads Emotions

A Billboard that Reads your Emotions

You’re being watched…

We all know that the day would come that robots would invade our world, but it looks like science fiction was being overly dramatic in a lot of the horror stories.  They never mentioned how profitable the robots would be.

That’s right, we live in a world where billboards are thinking.  They can read you, decide what you’re thinking, and give you the best possible ad.  From there, all you can do is grab your credit card.

Did you know this was an option for your business?

Billboard Reads Emotions

So, What is This Intelligent Billboard?

Billboards were installed in London last year as a test of the technology to see if it was possible for a computer to successfully design the perfect ad – on its own.  They had a digital display, and they had a camera inside to read the people looking at them.  The first step was to decide what sort of mood the person was in.  Then, depending on whether the viewer was happy, sad, or neutral, it would display a different version of the ad.  Afterward, it analyzed the responses to measure how successful the ad was.  Finally, it repeated the good ads and trashed the bad ones.

The Technology Inside

You might imagine that they developed some sort of incredibly advanced technology to make this happen, but that actually wasn’t the case.  This was put together by the M&C Saatchi Advertising Agency, and they were working with Clear Channel and Posterscope to make it happen.  The billboards just had a Microsoft Kinect camera inside, so they were really just using technology that had already been developed for playing video games.  Kinect is able to read people’s reactions, so it gets the job done.

Bahia:  The Coffee of the Future

Unfortunately, this whole campaign probably created a lot of angry customers.  For the experiment, the advertising agency decided against using a real brand, so they simply made one up.  The product was an instant coffee called Bahia, and it’s not the type of thing that usually draws a lot of attention.

The Evolution of the Ad

The billboard was only advertising the one brand, so it was fairly limited in what it showed.  It didn’t promote sports cars to one person, laundry detergent to the next, and allergy medicine to a third.  Instead, it was programmed to use a series of different fonts, colors, and styles to see how different people reacted to the plea to buy coffee.

Why Spying on Your Customers Works

While the first instinct of many is that this whole idea is kind of creepy, it can actually work to improve everyone’s life.  If you remember that the main goal of advertising is to let people know about products or services they want, then this just helps eliminate all the noise on the street.  Instead of wasting your time, these smart billboards were able to show people what they wanted to see.  Also, since it measured reactions to see what people liked and didn’t like, and it can help make higher quality advertising in the future.  It’s basically like having a focus group that’s composed of, well, everyone.

Why the Internet Isn’t As Important as We Think

The internet has become a great place for businesses because it makes it possible to measure things in a way that has never even been remotely possible.  A lot of companies have been using it as an excuse to steer away from more traditional forms of advertising media, but this could put a stop to that pattern.  Internet browsing history is a great way to build a profile of your customer, but nothing beats walking around town with them and asking them their opinions.  If this technology can be in a few bus stops in London, it might not be long before it’s all over the globe.

This Campaign Doesn’t Invade Your Privacy

One nice feature about this little experiment is that it was designed in a way that wouldn’t let it cause any invasion of privacy.  It didn’t follow the standard internet strategy of storing all your information.  Even if it did, it wouldn’t make a huge difference because it never actually knew who it was looking at.

Time for You to Do the Same

Do you use similar techniques in your business?  Even if you don’t want to go to such extreme measures as this campaign did, are you taking advantage of modern advertising strategies? The marriage of technology and traditional advertising is a key relationship in influencing consumers.