There are an estimated 100 million pieces of trash on Tennessee roadways. With over $15 million being pumped into cleaning it up each year, state officials are appealing to the public for help.

After conducting a year’s worth of research, EnviroMedia, the Austin, Texas, environmental and sustainability agency for Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), launched a multimedia litter prevention campaign.

Mimicking the agency’s previous “Don’t mess with Texas” campaign, which has been ongoing for over 30 years, the new work is aimed squarely at the Tennessee residents most likely to litter, urging a shift in behaviors.

Proving the power of a hyper-targeted media campaign that’s steeped in audience research, here’s why we chose ‘Nobody Trashes Tennessee’ as our June campaign of the month.

The Insight

Female Tennesseans between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most likely to litter.

This insight, along with many others, was uncovered through extensive research aimed at getting a deeper understanding of residents’ attitudes towards littering.

State officials surveyed over 1,000 residents, counted and analyzed the litter being thrown on Tennessean roads, and conducted focus groups to delve into the findings and shape a message that would resonate among their target audience.

The research revealed a surprising gender skew in demographics, with seventy-one percent of females aged 16 to 34 describing themselves as litterers, higher than any other demographic group.

That’s not to say the men are without blame: 64% of the men surveyed aged 16-34 also fessed up to littering.

But the fact that women were unveiled as the more common culprit was a shock, Valerie Salinas-Davis, CEO of EnviroMedia Salinas-Davis told Adweek: “We’ve never seen a skew to gender in all the years doing ‘Don’t mess with Texas’.”

These findings helped carve out a core audience worth going after: younger drivers under the age of 34, especially women, with a nasty habit of throwing beverage cups, cans, straws, fast-food bags and other trash out of their vehicle windows.

The Message

“Every year, it costs Tennessee more than $15 million to clean up roadside litter. It’s time to keep your trash to yourself and our roadways clear. Because nobody trashes Tennessee.”

This is the core message that emanates from the campaign, emphasising the overwhelming cost of littering and the role every citizen has to play in preserving their local environment.

With a dedicated website encouraging others to “join the movement” alongside their fellow Tennesseans, the campaign highlights the many things the state has to be proud of, and the one thing they can change for the better.

“Join our fight against litter and help us spread Tennessee state pride.

It’s time for litterbugs to keep their trash to themselves and our roadways clear. Because nobody trashes Tennessee.”

Featuring an array of celebrities with links to the state, tailored messaging that’s unique to each has been spread across print ads and billboards, with a clear focus on bringing people together through a shared love for their home state.

Why it Worked

Following in the footsteps of “Don’t mess with Texas” (which went on to shape one of the state’s most iconic phrases), the latest campaign is already proving its potential.

With a primary goal of driving awareness around littering, it’s getting people talking, highlighting the very real, hard-hitting findings that shed some light on why the issue continues to escalate.

A great example of how rigorous research can reveal some surprising consumer truths that transform a campaign, it shows the value in finding an insight that’s worth the investment.

“It’s already catching on,” Salinas-Davis told Adweek. “You see a Facebook post of one of the ads being shared 4,000 to 6,000 times. If you look at Bobby Bones’s post about the billboard on his Instagram page, there’s almost 200 comments and 20,000 likes.”

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