Eurythenes plasticus is literally a media idea that's the first of its kind. We used the new deep-sea species as the medium itself - turning its name into the environmental message by naming it after the plastic that was found inside its body. The disturbing name of the new species formed the basis of all the communication for the campaign that followed. To be given the name "plasticus", it had to be described following the international Code of Zoological Nomenclature's rules. To do this we worked closely with marine ecologists, peer-reviewers and a scientific journal across five different countries.
Germans are some of the best sorters of rubbish in the world, but well under 30% of our plastic is recycled. Rather than dealing with our own trash, Germany is the third biggest exporter of plastic waste (behind the USA and Japan) to countries in South East Asia. Because of less stringent regulations in these countries, this trash often ends up at landfill where it’s blown around in the wind, into rivers and ultimately into our oceans. Once in the ocean, the plastic gradually breaks down into microplastics and slowly falls to the sea floor where it can take up to 400 years to fully decompose. Ocean plastic is an important ongoing topic for the WWF. We were given the challenge to find a new spin on a problem that has been desensitized over time that could generate widespread attention and action with a very modest budget.
Describe the creative idea / insights (30% of vote)
When you find a new species you get to give it a name. To make an environmental statement against ocean plastic, we named a new deep-sea species after the plastic that was found inside its body - Eurythenes plasticus. This new species has been entered into the permanent taxonomic record as living proof that we’re impacting parts of the world we are still discovering. Following the publication of the scientific manuscript and the worldwide press that resulted, we launched a multi-channel campaign collecting petition signatures calling for a legally binding UN agreement to put an end to marine plastic pollution.
Describe the strategy (20% of vote)
We needed to find a way to get the attention of a desensitized audience to further highlight the ocean plastic problem for our client the WWF. Through research, we found out that deep-sea species were being found with plastic contamination already in their bodies. One such study showed that 72% of the sampled deep-sea crustaceans contained plastic contamination. This insight created an interesting strategic opportunity to show the problem goes far deeper than previously imagined. Furthermore, if we could collaborate with deep-sea scientists to find a new species that had also been contaminated by plastic, we could name it after that very contamination and use the new species as a vehicle for environmental activism. We knew if we could use science to influence the taxonomic record of our planet, we could create a far more convincing and lasting educational impact on our audience than a conventional ad campaign.
Describe the execution (20% of vote)
This idea is the culmination of over one and a half years of collaboration together with world renowned marine ecologist Dr Alan Jamieson from Newcastle University. The campaign launched on 05.03.20 with the official publication of the scientific manuscript, creating history and making Eurythenes plasticus officially part of our planet’s taxonomic record. Within hours, a worldwide conversation had ignited over the extent of the plastic pollution in our oceans in over forty countries without any media spend. Following the publication of the new species, we rolled out a cross-platform campaign that encouraged people to sign a petition asking for a legally binding global UN agreement to put an end to marine plastic pollution. This cross over of advertising and science enabled us to eternalize the idea by partnering with museums in Germany and also internationally – including the Smithsonian – to permanently display the new species as an educative awakening.
List the results (30% of vote)
Launched during the rise of COVID-19, Eurythenes plasticus still made a lasting and global impact.
•The new species and the environmental topic was discussed across all major German media outlets and even generated global coverage in over 40 countries. In just 48 hours, Eurythenes plasticus achieved 1.4 billion earned media impressions (for $0 spend).
•The media frenzy is estimated to have generated €12 million in earned media value and thanks to the social discussion, over 93 counties were impacted.
•The permanent museum exhibitions have had over 410,000 combined visitors to date and new partnerships requests continue to be supported.
•Due to massive interest from schools to integrate the subject into the curriculum, we developed together with the scientists the website plasticus.school as an international educational resource that has thousands of downloads to date.
•Eurythenes plasticus received a Guinness World Record as the first new species contaminated by plastic.