$2 million ad campaign to take aim at litterbugs

Officials say goal is a cleaner city, not just a slogan

August 08, 2007|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,Sun reporter

In October, Baltimore will roll out a $2 million advertising campaign aimed at debunking the excuses that people have for littering.

"Don't make excuses. Make a difference" will be emblazoned on bumper stickers and billboards as well as promoted in radio and television advertising.

"There really are no good excuses for littering or not helping reduce litter," said Ed Callahan, creative director for Planit, the Baltimore-based agency that developed the campaign for the city.

The announcement today of the Cleaner Baltimore campaign by Mayor Sheila Dixon comes about five weeks before the city's Sept. 11 primary for mayor and City Council.

Although governments have been targeting littering since the successful "Give a hoot, don't pollute" campaign of the 1970s, and former Mayor William Donald Schaefer made a similar push with his "Baltimore Sparkle" effort, city officials stress that they are trying to go beyond having a catchy slogan.

"We didn't want to create just another tagline. We want something that's going to change the behavior and change the way they think," Callahan said.

Celeste Amato, the coordinator of the Cleaner Baltimore initiative, said the underlying message is about personal responsibility -- getting those who live and work in Baltimore to "take responsibility for litter."

She said the Bureau of Solid Waste has taken a number of steps to improve efficiency and response times to complaints.

"We want to get the message out there to residents that we've done all of this, up to this point, and we're ready to ask them to start to think about their role in all of this," Amato said.

She said the city is recruiting corporate sponsors and other donors to cover the cost of the two-year, $2 million campaign, but she added that she could not discuss any committed contributors last night.

"What we don't want this to be is another slogan that people don't understand," Callahan said. "We want people to read this and get it and do something about it."

Focus groups supported the idea of personal responsibility when Planit tested the slogan, Amato said. "They just didn't know what they were supposed to be personally responsible for," she said. But when the slogan is presented in the campaign materials, the link to trash and litter is direct.

"The message of personal responsibility is the tagline," she said. "In context, your personal responsibility for trash will be very clear."

And it is not just casual litterers. "If you're not using a trash can with a lid, you are in effect littering," Amato said.

She said the slogan could apply to other issues affecting quality of life in the city. "It's a message that could mean a lot of things over time."

The campaign's advertising components will also rely on nontraditional forms of advertising, said Rosann F. Glick of Planit.

Advertising compliments more efficient service that the city has been providing since March, Amato said. "We feel that we're starting to deliver better service, and we're in a position to ask everybody that lives and works here every day to do their part," she said.

For example, the city has added more than 750 trash cans to major thoroughfares, which can cost as much as $500 each, Amato said.

Graffiti removal crews work seven days a week now, reducing response time to within three days or even 24 hours on heavily used gateways or for gang-related tags, Amato said. Response time for alley and lot cleaning has been reduced by a week, to 14 days.

She said the city also started sweeping 320 more miles of Baltimore streets every week. It can also accommodate communities that request street sweeping by calling 311 or the office.

The city re-established the office of recycling in March, Amato said, and officials are preparing for twice-a-month single-stream recycling as early as January.

Amato said the city sought "something that has a very clear message, direct and very unapologetic."

Matt Doud, president of Planit, said last night that the campaign incorporates a "strong educational component." "The city is leading by example," he said.

"The city's commitment is putting the money where their mouth is ... it's about creating and motivating change by teaching people the right way to do it."

liz.kay@baltsun.com

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