Campaign Crush: Save the Food

September 5, 2017 | by Joshua P. Ferguson

Everyone in the BatesMeron office knows I’m the resident stickler about recycling. If you want to know what can and can’t be thrown into the blue bin, look no further. My passion for homegrown environmentalism doesn’t stop with recycling. I try my hardest to stay informed about and contribute to energy and waste conservation generally, which is why I’ve been so drawn to “Save the Food,” a potent, recent public-service ad campaign from the Ad Council and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

If you live in Chicago, you’ve probably seen the campaign. Ultra minimal, white and emblazoned with the headline “Best if Used,” the campaign’s Out of Home ads have been hugging buses and staring down from billboards for a couple months now. This is where I first spotted them. And I have to admit, knowing full well that I’m the perfect target for this campaign, I’m still surprised how much it sticks with me.


Save the Food OOH


The Power of Potent Messaging

As a foodie, a copywriter and waste-o-phobe, what attracts me most to the “Save the Food” campaign is its simplicity. The headline is one of those strokes of genius that manages to combine word play, brevity and a weighty message all in one. But really, the headline just opens the door to the real messaging: a series of facts about food waste and its impact on households, the country and the environment in general. Each has a number attached to it, something easy to remember like “40% of Food in America is Wasted.” You can’t not remember this statistic. I’m the type of person that won’t just remember it, I’ll work it into conversations.

There’s little doubt this is intentional. There are more stats where that one came from, and each is just as powerful. Covering all their bases, the Ad Council and the NRDC has also produced print ads, radio and TV spots, banner ads and a full suite of social media assets including shareable Facebook and Instagram images. Each one tees up a memorable nugget of food-waste wisdom, supported by the tagline, “Cook It, Store It, Share It.”


Save the Food Facebook


Clever messaging and mind-boggling statistics aside, “Save the Food” exists to change behavior. And this is hard to do as soon as you break out into a general public that’s not as pre-disposed to this line of messaging as I am. The ad industry has hemmed and hawed for decades about the effectiveness of this type of campaign (Brain on Drugs anyone?). What the campaigns of years past lacked was the digital home base to educate consumers who are curious enough to want to learn more. That’s where comes in.


The Indispensability of a Well Done Website

No matter what your brand is selling, it’s now a foregone conclusion that your advertising has one goal outside of promoting your brand: To send people to your website. “Save the Food” is no different. In fact, the site may be the linchpin in its success. There, cook it, store it and share it all take on lives of their own. Each is a section in the navigation that takes you down expertly designed pages with bright photography, tight copy and myriad opportunities to learn tips and tricks to reduce food waste in your home.

Before I even decided to write about the campaign, I’d read through the site to learn that say, it’s recommended you store sesame oil in the fridge (the rest are ok in the pantry) or that you can save peeled potato skins to make rustic potato chips (recipe included). These examples are just the light-hearted side of things. The real meaty stuff includes guides on how to decipher sell-by dates, how best to freeze food before it goes bad and how to be a better shopper.


Save the Food Web


There is also a treasure trove of downloadable assets that range from the aforementioned social-media images to approved hashtags (#savethefood) to a full catalog of campaign assets. There are tools for outreach to the media, community and foodservice, and even tip sheets, planning documents and free apps consumers can download to help waste less.


A PSA’s True Potential

Of course, the impact of “Save the Food” is yet to be seen. It may never be fully measurable. You still have to applaud the cause, the effort and the execution of this campaign. It’s well thought out, well written, well designed and well worth exploring if you haven’t yet.

I can’t speak for the sway “Save the Food” has had nationally, but I can speak for the results it’s getting from my house. I’m way more aware of every morsel that goes uneaten. Leftovers are carefully parceled out, non-essential recipe ingredients are skipped if it means I’m going to have to figure out what to do with, say, the seven extra celery stalks that come with the one I need to prepare dinner and now I’m armed with a dozen recipes to help me deal with all those veggie scraps I haven’t quite been able to figure out how to compost.

If nothing else, “Save the Food” also gave us this tale of strawberry love gone unrequited when the carton is washed too early, relegated to the back of the fridge and left to mold :(.



Do you have any recent examples of PSA-style advertising that you feel is especially effective? If so, sound off in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for such an insightful article. Love how you point out the power of a clever campaign while reiterating such an important message… it’s like a psa done with style!

    • Joshua P. Ferguson

      That’s exactly how we felt Jodi! So good!

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