Glad Tidings

Trash bag ads on garbage trucks help NYC anti-litter campaign.

Billboards are Great for Getting a Message out, and advertising on buses makes sense, but is there any better place to advertise a garbage bag than on the side of a New York City garbage truck?

“We've got 2,200 garbage trucks or collection vehicles that will be out on the streets of the city of New York covering every block in the city of New York at least twice and in many cases three times a week,” says Vito Turso, DSNY's deputy commissioner for public information and community affairs. “So, these are tremendous moving targets for getting information out.”

In the past, the trucks had carried signs with seasonal messages reminding New Yorkers to keep leaves raked in autumn or to shovel snow in winter. In 2006, Turso says, DSNY began considering ways the truck signage could be used in a new public education campaign, as well as how it might be used to generate revenue.

At the same time, the department was working with Keep America Beautiful (KAB) to found a chapter of the organization in New York. Through KAB, Turso was introduced to David Kellis, manager of public relations for Glad Products Co. (a subsidiary of the Oakland, Calif.-based Clorox Co.).

In addition to encouraging litter prevention, Turso says DSNY wanted to gauge the effectiveness of advertising on its vehicles. Glad jumped at the opportunity. “Number one, it's a great way to get the word out,” says Kellis. “But number two, it's a message that has tremendous credibility for us, because being associated with the true experts in the sanitation industry really makes our brand stand out. It's the implied endorsement that we're getting from the Department of Sanitation saying that our bags are tough.”

Though DSNY's lawyers were involved, Turso says the pilot nature of the campaign enabled it to circumvent many bureaucratic hurdles. For its part, Glad donated 125,000 ForceFlex trash bags and an undisclosed amount of cash to aid in the city's cleanup efforts.

After months of negotiating, the three parties agreed upon a design for the posters that would be displayed on two sides of the city's 2,200 collection trucks and one side of the city's 450 mechanical street sweepers. The bright yellow posters include the KAB logo and remind New Yorkers to keep the city clean. Above that is the Glad logo with the slogan, “New York City Tough.”

“To be perfectly honest, it was Vito who came up with that,” Kellis says. “He ran it by us and we thought, ‘That sounds great!’”

The ads ran from Nov. 2006 through Jan. 2007. Anticipating the inhospitable New York winter and the nature of the placement, Glad manufactured the posters using a heavy, specially laminated card stock.

If the goal was media attention, the campaign was an immediate success. “We got a call from the New York Daily News within an hour of the signs going up on the trucks,” says Kellis, adding that Glad realized a bump in sales in the region thanks to the campaign.

Turso also was pleased with the campaign, which he credits with bringing recognition to New York's cleanup efforts. He does note that organizing future campaigns will be more difficult, requiring the involvement of New York's Corporation Council, the city's marketing agency, and a bidding process. But, he says, the potential revenue is hard to ignore.

If DSNY does put more ads on its garbage trucks, Turso says he'd like to figure out a way to include some at the rear of the vehicle. “Most people get stuck behind the collection truck while it's picking up the garbage on a block,” he chuckles.

Steven Averett is the managing editor of Waste Age.