Why WWF Canada is talking about the deadly impact of fake flowers

The organization is trying to get Canadians to rethink their relationship to other forms of plastic, beyond single-use bottles.

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Single-use plastic bottles receive the bulk of condemnation when it comes to generating harmful waste, but WWF Canada is pointing out that fake flowers contribute to the problem as well.

The campaign, “Deadly Flora,” includes a dedicated website, national digital assets, OOH and an experiential display installed inside a Montreal botanical garden to highlight the irony: fake plants that may take thousands of years to degrade, being purchased as a substitute for real ones, which – perhaps counter-intuitively – help the planet by biodegrading naturally and not emitting greenhouse gasses in their production. The campaign is urging donors to “choose nature.”

While fake flowers are the focus, the campaign is about more than that: getting people to rethink their relationship with plastic overall, beyond easy focal points like plastic bottles.

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Sophie Paradis, director for Quebec at WWF Canada, tells strategy that the dramatic-looking fake flowers depicted in the creative are a really unique way to address the issue of plastic proliferation, and a means of reaching out to new audiences in a more relatable way.  “We never thought about plastic flowers, because we were focusing on micro-plastics or cleaning shorelines,” she says, adding that the creative “shows an ugly impact in a beautiful way.”

Plastic flowers are becoming increasingly popular, especially among urban consumers, but still represent a small portion of overall plastic waste. Paradis says it was important for the message to not be too accusatory or point a finger at any one industry, but to draw attention to plastic use overall, especially from unexpected sources.

When it comes to not including fake Christmas trees in the campaign, Paradis says that’s based on science, as the carbon footprint of a small reusable plastic tree compares favorably with the environmental impact of cutting down and transporting a live tree, as well as the fact that plastic trees are generally reused instead of putting plastics into landfills or the ocean. Overall, the group’s message is to “think local first, natural always, and if you can reuse, it’s always better.”

Paradis says the “Deadly Flora” campaign may itself be re-purposed depending on how it’s received, and that previous efforts drawing attention to plastic have proved popular.

According to Paradis, the job of the organization is to focus on broader species conservation and habitat, and that there are many ways to talk about it, and to different audiences. The Quebec arm of WWF, for example, is focusing on bringing back biodiversity to the city of Montreal, and recreating ancient water systems as a restorative project, as well as highlighting the plight of the beluga whale in the St. Lawrence waterway.

According to recent Stats Canada data, Quebeckers are less likely to give to charitable causes. According to Paradis, however, “if you are doing your job well and adjusting your message, people will recognize it.”

Taxi’s Montreal office developed the creative in both French and English.