CAMPAIGNS: Westminster gets tough on West End filth - Public Sector

Client: Westminster City Council PR Team: In-house Campaign: Don't Soil It for Everyone Timescale: September-November 2003 Budget: £6,000

Every night at the weekend in London's West End, Westminster City Council has to clear its streets of six instances of human excreta, 600 pools of vomit and more than a gallon of urine.

After the council signed a £124m contract with Onyx, a private cleaning company, to cleanse the streets it decided West End users should also do their bit to keep the streets clean.

Objectives

To raise awareness about the filthy state of the streets among those who use the West End for entertainment. To change the behaviour of those who create the filth by warning them that it is a criminal offence, and informing them about the location of public conveniences. To build up support from local bars and pubs.

Strategy and Plan

In order to reach the perpetrators of the filth, which the council identified as mainly binge-drinking men aged 18 to 30, the council targeted bars and pubs in the West End that cater for this clientele.

To convince them that this was not just another authoritarian message from a council that's against people having a good time, the PR team approached the drinks industry's self-regulatory body, the Portman Group, and Environmental Campaigns, the charity behind the 'Keep Britain Tidy' initiative, to endorse the campaign.

Results from a focus group had convinced the PR team that a cynical, humorous approach would work best, so they sent posters to 35 pubs, as well as beer mats, postcards and T-shirts emblazoned with the campaign's icons and logos. These had straplines such as 'If you can't keep it down, don't down it'.

Since the West End is used by people from across greater London, the PR team approached regional TV, radio and press about the campaign.

The media was supplied with gruesome statistics about the filthy streets, campaign postcards were sent to environmental correspondents, and the PR team went out on the street in campaign T-shirts and cleared up mock vomit in front of the press.

The council cordoned off a section of Villiers Street with a pop-up toilet and held a party for the press to launch the campaign.

Measurement and Evaluation

The campaign generated national coverage in The Sunday Times and was broadcast on Sky Breakfast News. Five London radio stations - LBC, BBC London, Heart FM, Capital FM and Sky Radio, plus all four of Westminster's local newspapers, covered the campaign.

Results

While only 15 pubs signed up to take part in the campaign before the press coverage, a further 20 joined up afterwards. The council claims West End streets are now becoming cleaner. 'I thought the vomit cleanup was a good stunt,' said West End Extra reporter Amanda McGregor.

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