CAMPAIGN: Anglian Water converts trolleys into art

By geographical area, Anglian Water is the largest water service provider in England and Wales, supplying more than 4.5 million customers from the Humber to the Thames estuary and Northamptonshire to the East Coast.

Campaign RiverCare Shopping Trolley Art
Client Anglian Water
PR team In-house and Colin Green Media
Timescale January 2006-ongoing
Budget £37,000 (including a £7,000 grant from the Government's Arts & Business initiative)

As part of its CSR programme, and to meet water quality standards agreed with the Environment Agency, Anglian funds the RiverCare scheme, which is managed by Encams (formerly known as Keep Britain Tidy).

RiverCare sees local groups ‘adopting' a stretch of river, which they keep free of litter and monitor for wildlife. To highlight its £500,000 five-year investment in RiverCare, Anglian worked with environmental PR specialist Colin Green Media.

To recruit more RiverCare volunteers and demonstrate that Anglian is having a positive impact on the environment and communities through its regulated water-treatment processes. To highlight Anglian's financial backing of RiverCare.

Strategy and Plan
Because Anglian has helped restore previously contaminated rivers to thriving natural habitats, the PR team wanted to illustrate how caring for rivers encourages species such as fish, otters and voles to thrive.

It commissioned Brighton-based artist Ptolemy Elrington, who makes sculptures out of old washing machine and car parts, to transform shopping trolleys - the most common rubbish pulled from waterways - into sculptures of wildlife.

These artworks included representations of a water vole, kingfisher, crayfish and heron.

Last summer, the PR team toured three of the sculptures around parks and riverbanks in towns and cities including Norwich, Lincoln and Peterborough, inviting local media to photocalls. It then displayed the complete collection of sculptures at the International Bird Watching Fair, run by the RSPB, at Rutland Water.

The sculptures have also been displayed at Anglian's visitor centres, and this summer will appear at the Inland Waterways Festival in St Ives.

Measurement and Evaluation
The campaign has featured on BBC Breakfast and Richard & Judy, as well as 15 regional TV programmes and 15 local BBC radio stations.

At the height of last year's summer  drought, when many water companies suffered negative coverage around leakage levels, the sculptures scored a double-page spread in the Daily Mail and a feature in the Daily Star, as well as articles in BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Hits to rose from a monthly average of 1,690 (from March to June 2006) to 2,920 (from July to September 2006). A number of new RiverCare groups are being planned.

The campaign won a Utility Week marketing gong, and was shortlisted for the Media Guardian Green Awards and The Sunday Times Best of British Industry Awards.

‘As the sculptures are so unusual, it was a good way to grab people's attention and create something they would want to read about,' says Lincolnshire Echo picture editor Stuart Wilde.



Marie Louise Windeler (pictured), former CEO of Hill & Knowlton, is executive chairman of social change consultancy Corporate Culture:

With gloomy environment news at the top of the agenda these days, it is great to be able to celebrate and communicate something positive.

This is an innovative example of a successful CSR programme, and a creative campaign that succeeds in communicating sustainability and brand values. 

The real boon to this campaign was the highly visual sculptures. They were an invaluable choice for Anglian Water to get its messages across. I especially liked the fact that they were made using the same materials as the rubbish that is pulled from waterways - a great ‘sell' to give the media.

It also ties in very well with Anglian's achievements in improving the quality of the rivers in its region through better wastewater treatment, as monitored by the Environment Agency. Alongside this practice, wildlife is now being encouraged to thrive in its natural habitat - by, and in, rivers - thanks to the RiverCare initiative.

I noticed on the RiverCare website that there are still several areas within Anglian's region that do not have volunteer groups set up. Maybe that is an area that the campaign needs to focus on during the next phase of the PR programme. 

The challenge will be to come up with a creative way to deliver the RiverCare message, while devising a ‘call to action' from members of the public.

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