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Joi Sears headshot

This Strawberry Ad About Food Waste Gives Us All The Feels

By Joi Sears

The key to any successful marketing campaign is to tap into the emotions of your audience in some way. Social marketing is no different. In order to get people to change their behavior, they have to actually feel something. And, in a world where we are constantly inundated with content, forward-thinking brands are developing creative ways to cut through the noise and speak to consumers in new ways.

Ironically, the best way to forge a meaningful connection with consumers is through one of the oldest forms of communication known to man: storytelling. Humans are hard-wired to tell and listen to compelling stories. Stories create empathy, and empathy creates change.

The Ad Council’s Save the Food campaign is a fantastic example of how powerful storytelling can influence social marketing efforts. The oddly emotional campaign sheds light on the sad reality that more than 40 percent of all food purchased in the U.S. each year goes to waste. This amounts to over $162 billion annually that is quite literally thrown in the trash.

To illustrate this issue, the Ad Council, in collaboration with SapientNitro, produced a compelling two-minute video that's giving people all over the world the feels. The video follows the epic journey of a single strawberry from its time on the vine to ultimately ending up rotting in the trash of a typical American family.


The project was produced pro-bono by SapientNitro, an agency specifically focused on storytelling across brand, digital and commerce. The campaign primarily targets moms, because they typically “make more of the decisions around food — planning, shopping, cooking and disposing,” explained Gary Koepke, North American chief creative officer at SapientNitro.

“Millennials are also a key audience,” he said, because they are "engaged and idealistic about helping the environment" and show an interest in "life hacks that help them experience more and waste less." The campaign website features a clear, actionable list of ways to eliminate food waste in the home.

This is the most important aspect of any social marketing campaign. So now that I feel something, what do you want me to do? Through the website, consumers can get tips on how to plan meals ahead of time, use leftovers and store food so that it lasts longer.

Print, Web and out-of-home ads are also in the mix that urge consumers to "Cook it. Store it. Share it." rather than prematurely trash milk, eggs, bread and chicken. The clean, minimal, uncluttered art direction is also a highlight of the campaign. As a design-obsessed, eco-conscious millennial (the target demographic), I can’t wait to share the ads on my website and social media channels.

All in all, it seems like this campaign is a hit. However, the true success is in measuring its social impact over time. Unlike hunger, pollution, poverty and other global issues that may seem insurmountable, it is possible to eliminate food waste in our lifetime -- and the actions we can take to do so are largely painless. It’s just a matter of getting people to care about the issue and equipping them with the tools to do something about it.

Image credit: Save The Food

Joi Sears headshot

Joi M. Sears is the Founder and Creative Director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in offering creative solutions to the world's biggest social, environmental and economic challenges through the arts, design thinking and social innovation.

Read more stories by Joi Sears