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Turning the page with recycled paper: how Posterscope & Nestlé made billboards sustainable

As prolific advertisers, Nestlé knew it had the power to make a real and positive change.

Posterscope won the ‘Innovation in Out of Home’ category at The Drum Awards for Out of Home with its campaign for Nestlé. This project took one of the industry’s staples, the humble paper billboard, and used it to send an important message of sustainability. Here, the team behind the entry explains its inspiration and execution.

There is no specific client, or brand challenge that needs addressing as much as the bigger problem, one that faces all of us on the planet.

Paper consumption globally is at unsustainable levels, and in OOH we recognise our paper posters can sometimes contribute to the problem. In addition, the OOH medium gives many brands a platform to promote their work around sustainability and environment, and although the increase in DOOH technology means we are making progress in this field, there is still a lot more to be done.

Our objective, therefore, was to make improvements in the OOH space to the reduce environmental impact – notably in the paper and paste branch of our industry.

And surprisingly much of the industry will likely assume that the use of recycled paper as a process was something already in place. But it wasn’t. Upon discovering this, Posterscope/MediaCo set about changing this.

As a pithy strategy, we settled on ‘let’s make our posters better’. Innovation doesn’t always have to mean the creation of a shiny piece of technology; at its most powerful it means taking something we already do/have and making it better.

In this case, ours was a massively overlooked technology: as European TED director Bruno Giussani put it, “Paper is a technology. One that can store words, but also be designed to absorb chemicals, to filter light, to absorb sound, to package food in ways that make it not rot, to build houses, and more.”

After months of research and development, we developed a 100% recycled product that offers advertisers green printing techniques to small format posters for the first time with no loss of quality. We could now offer a product that delivers all the colour vibrancy of non-recycled paper whilst creating less pressure on the environment. Unlike current paper that has no recycled content, this collects used paper which is de-inked and pulped prior to reaching the paper-making stage. Old processes involved using chlorine to brighten the paper, but this recycling process no longer involves the use of chlorine + all inks used are vegetable-based and eco-friendly.

But to make it a reality, we needed a brand partner with shared sustainability ambitions.

Enter Nestlé - the world’s largest food and beverage company with over 2,000 global brands. Nestlé recognise they have a role to play in reducing their impact on the environment and have committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050, which includes everything from the energy they use in their factories to the materials they use in their operations, including advertising.

Working in partnership with Nestlé to bring to life our aligned vision, we brought the brand new paper technology to the streets with the launch of Quality Street’s Intrigue campaign. On 8th March, the UK’s first 6-sheet campaign (2800 x paper 6 sheets for Quality Street - 1400 in the first incharge, 1400 in the second incharge) using 100% recycled paper went live across the UK –representing an enormous step-change for the OOH industry.

And we won’t be stopping there: Nestlé will be using the product for every UK 6-sheet campaign across 2021 and beyond, being the first brand to lead this initiative and set a positive example for the industry.

This initiative may not have a raft of ROIs or shifts in brand metrics, but instead features one tangible result: By using 100% recycled paper in our 6-sheet campaign for Quality Street, we saw a 100% reduction in the use of posters made from virgin pulp (made from trees cut down from the mills’ own forests), and a massive progress in securing a sustainable future for the whole OOH industry.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Out of Home. To find out more, including which competitions are currently open for entry, visit The Drum Awards website.

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