The idea that created the perfect storm

Client: Shift (formerly known as 'We Are What We Do')
Campaign: I'm Not a Plastic Bag

Challenge

To reduce the enormous environmental damage of plastic bags by encouraging people to stop using them when they go shopping. The problem was that people valued the ease of disposable shopping bags in their time-poor lives.

Insight

The best way to get our target audience (middle class women) to change their behaviour would be to give them a better, sexier alternative, not by telling them what to do.

Idea

Our target audience love designer handbags more than they love shopping bags (and in some cases their husbands). Our idea was to create a shopping bag that woman covet that could communicate how refusing plastic bags is a fashionable thing to do, not just an (unsexy) act of social responsibility. We did this by creating an inspiring and fun call to action “I’m not a Plastic Bag”, and by partnering with Anya Hindmarsh to produce and market the bag at £5 (AH is one of the country’s leading handbag designers whose bags usually retail upwards of £700).

Results

The bags were sold in the UK, USA, Japan and Taiwan for £5. Our “I Am Not a Plastic Bag” bag led to kilometre-long queues of buyers and sold out in all four counties in under 5 hours. It generated acres of free publicity across magazines, newspapers and TV channels, and was embraced by celebrities including Keira Knightley, Lily Allen, Erin O’Connor and Lily Cole – US Vanity Fair magazine even gave it away in their Oscar Party goodie bag. This all led to a black market where they were changing hands on Ebay for up to £400 a bag. In the months and years that followed, huge numbers of imitations flooded the market, further publicising our message for free.

Google I’m not a Plastic Bag

This campaign was at the vanguard of the anti-plastic bag movement. The British Retail Consortium estimated that in 2006, the UK alone used 10.6bn plastic bags, and this figure dropped to 6.1bn in 2010. Specifically, Sainsbury’s cut the number of bags they gave away by 58% in the 2 years that followed the campaign, giving out 312m fewer bags in 2008 than 2009 and saving 13,200 tonnes of virgin plastic over two years.