Creative Works Brand Strategy VMLY&R

NYC Dept of Sanitation cracks down on litterers and ‘dog-poopetrators’ in new campaign


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

April 10, 2023 | 6 min read

New York City is calling litterers on their shit in a new campaign by VMLY&R that encourages residents to keep city sidewalks clean.

Dog poo poster

New York City is cracking down on dog-poopetrators in new cleanup campaign / VMLY&R

A new campaign from the New York City Department of Sanitation and the Partnership for New York City urges residents to do their part in keeping dog waste and garbage off the streets.

The first major anti-littering campaign from the department in a decade and a half, the initiative includes a series of tongue-in-cheek ads that reimagine common NYC waste – including cigarette butts, to-go coffee cups and discarded takeout food – as the faces of real people, suggesting that litterers are themselves trash.

Some of the ads spotlight the issue of dog excrement dirtying the city’s sidewalks. One image depicts a Jack Russel Terrier raking up his own poo, alongside the tagline: ‘Until they can, it’s on you. Don’t leave **it on the sidewalk.”

The new initiative is part of New York City mayor Eric Adams’ broader efforts to clean up the city. In October of last year, city officials made headlines – and many a meme – when they introduced a new garbage collection plan with the goal of cracking down on a growing rat population. “Every day, [New Yorkers] see rats in their streets, playgrounds, subways and even homes. This is not Ratatouille. Rats are not our friends,” said New York City Council Member Shaun Abreu at a press conference.

Then, in November, Adams announced a plan to invest $14.5m into what he claimed would be New York City’s biggest cleanup project in years. It’s known as the ‘Get Stuff Clean’ program.

Recently, the city’s Department of Sanitation has begun cracking down on illegal dumping, changing trash pickup schedules and methods and investing more resources to attend to over 1,500 “long-ignored” parts of the city, per a press release published today.

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Adams backs the new Department of Sanitation campaign, saying in a statement today: “New Yorkers have had enough of litter, enough of filth on our sidewalks and enough of feeling like there's nothing they can do about it. This administration has committed to ‘Get Stuff Clean,’ and our strategy is working, but we need everyone to do their part, and that's what this campaign is all about.”

DSNY trash campaign

The campaign was developed by creative and customer experience agency VMLY&R. It will appear on the city’s LinkNYC digital billboard kiosks and on bus shelters across New York City’s five boroughs throughout April.

The agency feels that the initiative – which includes a handful of saucy taglines like ‘See a #GarbageNewYorker? Tell ‘em where to stick it’ – taps into New Yorkers’ infamous frankness in a way that will resonate with passersby. “New Yorkers don’t sugarcoat things. We say what we mean. The tone in these ads speak like New Yorkers: blunt, direct and with a little bit of wit to serve as a reminder that real New Yorkers don’t sit around and wait for others to pick **it up,” said Wayne Best, VMLY&R New York’s chief creative officer, in a statement.

The new campaign ties in with the Partnership for New York City’s recent rebrand of Milton Glaser’s iconic ‘I ♥ NY’ logo to ‘We ♥ NYC’ – a move that garnered widespread backlash. The logo appears on all of the new Department of Sanitation ads.

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