The Smear Campaign - Water Pollution - Central Office of Public Interest (COPI) JPG
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The Smear Campaign - Central Office of Public Interest (COPI)
Water Pollution

The Smear Campaign - Central Office of Public Interest (COPI) - Water Pollution


Title: The Smear Campaign
Brand: Central Office of Public Interest (COPI)
Product/Service: Water Pollution
Client: Central Office of Public Interest (COPI)
Entrant Company: AMVBBDO
Earth Prize: 90813
Notes for Judging: Wastewater management is part of the sustainable development goals around clean water & sanitation. The UN wants to ‘ improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimising release of hazardous chemicals and materials'. And yes, every day, millions of litres of raw sewage is dumped in UK waters.

The Smear Campaign used craft as a weapon, calling out the people polluting our water with a custom typeface designed to be as sickening as the data it represents.

Every element was inspired by real sewage collected from our waterways, to make a hidden truth, revoltingly real.
While awareness of sewage pollution is growing in the UK, public engagement is low as many fail to digest the implications of the issue and feel powerless to do anything about it.

Many water companies in the UK report sewage spill data, but do so in a way which makes it meaningless for the British Public. They hide behind spreadsheets filled with reams of raw data.

So Central Office of Public Interest (COPI) visualised the truth behind the data and showed it for what it really was: revolting.
Recent figures from the Environmental Agency show that there were 3.6 million hours of raw sewage spills into England’s rivers and seas by water companies in 2023 doubling from 2022.

Meanwhile, water companies are paying themselves and their shareholders huge salaries & dividends, while ecosystems collapse and we all lose our shared natural assets.

Despite all this, the UK government is voting for targets that allow sewage dumping to continue for at least another 15 years.
The Smear Campaign exposed the disgusting reality hidden behind meaningless dumping data with a campaign made from the same sewage those responsible are dumping in our waters.

COPI called out sewage dumping in real time, with campaign media linked to live spill data featuring messaging that was as sickening as the human waste pouring into our waters.

When live data alerted us to a sewage spill, we turned up at the dumping site and smeared those responsible, visualising the data with messaging crafted from human waste.

Because sometimes if you want people to clean up their act, you’ve got to play dirty.

The media has predominantly tackled the sewage pollution issue at a national level which is shocking but doesn’t translate to the local action needed for change. To add to that, water companies in the UK report sewage spill data in a way which makes it essentially meaningless for the British Public. They hide behind hard to access spreadsheets with reams of raw data or they might dress it up with PR friendly terms and distracting sound bites.

The truth is that this issue resonates deeply within local communities, affecting a diverse range of individuals, from wild swimmers to pet dogs, surfers to seaside business proprietors.

Recognising the need for local, tangible change, we took the initiative to address the issue at a grassroots level, distinguishing ourselves by responding to local sewage spills and crafting bespoke creative for individual spills and cultural moments such as the Boat Race.
The Smear Campaign used typography as a tool, to weaponise meaningless data and make a hidden truth, sickeningly real.

We collected a sample of the human waste polluting our waters: used condoms, tampons, cigarette butts, tissues, and human faeces, and turned it into 26 rancid letters of protest.

Live sewage spill data powered our campaign messaging, so when they dumped, we called it out with disgusting posters, projections, placards and social that highlighted where and when the spills were occurring in real-time. Live billboards also drove around Westminster to ramp up the pressure on the government to hold the water companies responsible.

Everything led people to a site that called out the politicians who voted for dumping to continue, building pressure for them to ban it and improve water quality by reducing pollution to make UK waters safe for people to enjoy once more.
We took the disgusting reality, hidden behind abstract data and made it unmissable.

$28M earned media
35% of UK adults reached
74% of audience reacted with disgust.

We turned the stomachs of a nation, provoking a visceral reaction to previously meaningless dumping data.