Why Corona is sucking up plastic in the St. Lawrence River

Who: Corona, with Anomaly for strategy and creative, Veritas for PR, and Dentsu for media.

What: A floating “Plastic Collecting Billboard” that sucks up plastic from the St. Lawrence river. It’s part of the brand’s long standing commitment to the protection of public shorelines and waterways.

When & Where: The billboard has been in the water since the start of the month, and will remain there until Oct. 19. There’s also an online tool, the Corona Plastic Challenge, meant to calculate a user’s plastic pollution footprint. Most of the amplification plan is around PR and influencer outreach rather than traditional paid media.

Why: Corona has made beach protection and the reduction of plastic pollution a core part of its brand for years now. “As a brand that lives outside and encourages consumers to disconnect to enjoy the beauty around them, this is a natural extension for Corona to explore,” said Mike Bascom, senior marketing director, Corona Canada.

Last year, Corona and Anomaly placed sculptures of people made from plastic on Canadian beaches, while internationally, Corona has, for example, paid fishers to catch and remove plastic from the ocean.

The billboard and Plastic Challenge are new way for the brand to re-enter the conversation in Canada and raise awareness of the problem of plastic pollution.

“As more and more plastic flows into the ocean from rivers, it’s important we continue to educate and encourage Canadians to understand their personal impact on plastic pollution, and how they can reduce their environmental footprint moving forward,” said Bascom.

How (the billboard): The insight behind the billboard is that 80% of ocean plastic waste comes from the more than 1,000 rivers and lakes that feed into the oceans. About one-fifth of the world’s freshwater comes from the Great Lakes, and the Great Lakes, of course, flow into the Atlantic through the St. Lawrence.

The billboard was created as a powerful reminder of the problem, puttering around the waters just off the shore of Boucherville, Que. and sucking up plastic like a giant river Roomba. 

Anomaly partnered with a company called Serial Cleaners, using its proprietary skimmer technology to catch all solid and liquid waste floating on the water’s surface—including biomass, solid and liquid waste, plastic bottles, cigarette filters, cigarette butts, packaging, microplastics, hydrocarbons, and more.

“In the spirit of walking the talk, and being genuine with our message, it wasn’t just putting a headline on a billboard about doing good, it was actually doing good,” said Neil Blewett, group creative director at Anomaly.

The billboard will also provide conservation organization Ocean Wise with new information about the amount of plastic flowing down the St. Lawrence. “As a result, we can hopefully start to get an idea of the items being littered, types of plastic, and their sources,” said Jeff Wint, plastic reduction manager, Ocean Wise, in a release.

How (the self-assessment): Aside from the awareness-raising billboard, Corona worked with Ocean Wise to develop the online “Corona Plastic Challenge” to help people learn about how much they may be contributing to the problem. The tool can provide an approximation of the user’s plastic footprint based on answers to questions about consumption and daily garbage disposal habits—such as how many plastic coffee cups do you use in a week, and do you use plastic or reusable bags when grocery shopping. (I’m guilty of producing 6.18 kg annually.)

And we quote: “These types of innovative and bold initiatives not only raise awareness of the plastic pollution issue in our country, it they also demonstrate that Corona is living its values by committing to protect Canadian waterways and shorelines from plastic waste.” — Paul Lipson, group strategy director, Anomaly

David Brown