Emily Tan Matthew Miller
Apr 22, 2015

DNA puts a human face on Hong Kong's litter problem

HONG KONG - The creators of an Earth Day campaign launching today in Hong Kong analysed DNA from real-life litter to create visual representations of the litterbugs and make citizens think twice about tossing their trash—lest they find their face adorning a future poster.

Client: The Hong Kong CleanUp Initiative, organised by Ecozine and The Nature Conservancy

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong 

Market: Hong Kong

Name of campaign: 'The face of litter'

Campaign scope: DNA testing of litter, online video, OOH

Details: The agency collected litter from locations in Hong Kong and used SnapShot DNA phenotyping technology from Parabon Nanolabs to create visual approximations of the litterbugs. DNA phenotyping can't lead to the actual individual who littered, but can reveal characteristics such as ethnicity, eye colour, hair colour and gender. The technology also cannot reveal age, so the team factored in the type of litter and the location where it was found to arrive at an estimation of age for the culprits. 

Press release quote: Reed Collins, chief creative officer, Ogilvy & Mather Group Hong Kong: "Litter is such a major problem in Hong Kong, and thanks to newly available DNA technology we can now put a face to this anonymous crime and get people to think twice about littering."

Campaign Asia Pacific's comments: The campaign depends on the general public being ignorant enough about DNA to believe that scientists could actually generate a picture of a specific individual from saliva on a cigarette butt or lipstick on a coffee cup. That's not true of course, but even momentarily worrying about the possibility may be enough to make some people reconsider their lazy, littering ways.

Regardless, the broader Hong Kong Cleanup is a good thing. Last year, the six-week challenge saw 418 teams of 51,064 participants collect a truly shameful 3.9 million kilograms of trash.


Reed Collins: Chief Creative Officer
Rafael Guida: Executive Creative Director, OgilvyOne
Jim Fong: Creative Director, OgilvyOne
Craig Mason: Head of Creative Technology
Viko Wong: Business Director, OgilvyOne
Carey Pearson: Group Account Director, Advertising
Sincere Ng: Account Manager, OgilvyOne
Mikyung Kim: Head of TV, Hogarth


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