The Unflushables campaign was originally launched in 2017 to remind Lower Mainland citizens about what can and cannot be flushed. It was an effort to help municipalities reduce the dollars (in the $100,000’s!) spent de-clogging regional pump stations and replacing damaged equipment annually.
Metro Vancouver’s communications team was entering its third year of the Unflushables project and needed to bring new life to the message and help launch the campaign. Many ideas were brainstormed, but at the end of the day, the issue of clogged pipes and sewers remained out of sight and out of mind, so Metro Vancouver needed to bring the “issue” to the surface. Mascots that represented items that were okay to flush needed to be visually engaging, unexpected and a light-hearted way of discussing matters that make many people uncomfortable.
With six weeks from conception to execution, the team faced the challenge of convincing management that using the “Pee & Poo” mascots to convey the message would be successful. After secondary research on how shockingly popular the poop emoji has become, along with a solid rationale for using a “stunt” to kick off the campaign, the mascots were approved.
The team invested in:
On April 1, the campaign was launched with the tagline #DontBeFooled and relied heavily on the PR stunt to attract the attention of transit-goers at the Waterfront Skytrain Station during morning rush hour in Vancouver. The stunt eventually led to interest from Metro Vancouver’s member municipalities who were making specific requests to have the mascots at their summer events. The mascots’ whereabouts were promoted through social media, and residents lined up to see them at events and take selfies. There were even a few requests to have the mascots attend birthday parties.
Contrary to those who questioned the unconventional initiative, the campaign was very successful. Within two weeks, Metro Vancouver received 283 news stories, including local stations like Global and CTV, as well as international coverage such as Fox News.
The “Pee & Poo” mascots visited municipalities across Metro Vancouver over the spring and summer, encountering high acceptance and engagement by the population, especially among families with children. At one event alone, in Port Moody, the mascot team participated in 3,000 interactions with the general public. Results of an opinion poll conducted post-campaign indicated that 41% of the respondents remembered seeing the campaign and over 30% affirmed that they would share it with friends.
As the end of the year approaches, Metro Vancouver’s communications team will be getting together to brainstorm ideas for the fourth Unflushables campaign to try and enhance what was achieved in 2018. I look forward to seeing what they will create, and you?
Paula Schütt is a Communications Coordinator at Munro Thompson. She has a bachelor's degree in Public Relations from UNIVALI and a Marketing certificate from Arbutus College. With over 3 years of experience working both in agency and in-house, she has been involved in communications projects for non-profits, First Nations communities and organizations in the fitness, logistics, accounting and cosmetics industries. LinkedIn & Twitter: @paulaschutt