The judges were impressed by this exceptionally strong and integrated campaign, which was well-researched and addressed an issue of great public and political salience. It was clear that Iceland Foods feel passionately about promoting sustainability and is leading from the front, ahead of broader national debates on the environment. They were clearly a disruptor in this space, and the mix of great third-party engagement, effective digital content, strong consumer PR and employee advocacy is one that others in the industry can learn from.

Mark of Excellence:

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Winner entry:

Brief and objectives:

Plastic pollution is killing the oceans and entering the food chain. In the UK, only a third of plastics are recycled, with the rest illegally dumped, going to landfill or incinerated. Black plastic trays from ready meals cannot be recycled. Richard Walker, MD of Iceland, surfer and passionate environmentalist, led the decision to eliminate plastics a year before David Attenborough mobilised public interest in the issue through Blue Planet II.

The campaign set out to maximise the impact of the announcement and generate a tidal wave of support. Four days after Theresa May announced the Government’s commitment to reduce plastics by 2042, Iceland pledged to be plastic-free in just five years. The story cut through an intense news period, dominated by the collapse of construction giant Carillion, achieving massive media coverage. The editor of The Grocer called it “a PR masterstroke”.

Reaction included support from the Prime Minister and Michael Gove. Since the announcement, 200 MPs have lobbied for all other supermarkets to join Iceland’s pledge, Iceland has been asked to sit on the DEFRA Plastics Steering Committee and there have been follow-up announcements from Waitrose, Asda, the BBC and even Buckingham Palace.

Campaign objectives were to:

  • Do the right thing by making a pledge to ban plastics in all own label products
  • Communicate this announcement to a broad audience, not just Iceland shoppers
  • Build reputation and profile for the brand around its ethical credentials/leadership
  • Encourage competitors to take action – not competing, but collaborating

Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:

The PR team was led by Keith Hann (Director of Corporate Affairs), Hil Berg (Sustainability Lead) and Heather Blundell (MD, Weber Shandwick). The team reported directly to MD Richard Walker.

We developed an integrated communications strategy that recognised key stakeholder support was critical to delivering this enormous change. Suppliers were consulted before the launch and two dedicated conferences took place immediately afterwards. As a private, family-owned business, Iceland can make major decisions relatively quickly. This radical pledge by a smaller, independent supermarket had the power to encourage major players to take similar action. We involved Greenpeace as a critical friend, having supported their 2017 campaign for a bottle deposit return scheme. They concluded that the plan was considered and authentic, and acted as independent advisers throughout.

We gauged public opinion before the announcement, and a survey of 5,000 consumers found that 81% would support it.

We prepared a media kit including video and B-roll footage, photography and packaging samples. We hired a studio at Media City in Salford to allow for syndicated radio interviews, and media trained two directors and two senior experts from our packaging team.

Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:

  • Engagement with DEFRA prior to the campaign launch ensured that the Government was alerted to, and supportive of, Iceland’s commitments. Briefings were also sent in advance to environment ministers in the Scottish and Welsh governments.
  • Greenpeace provided credibility to the pledge. Its team shared the campaign with influencers beforehand, including high profile celebrities.
  • An internal communications plan saw 23,000 colleagues briefed through a letter and video from Richard Walker: 900 head office staff also received a gift of a reusable #toocoolforplastic metal drinks bottle.
  • Over 300 personalised briefings were sent out from individual board members to suppliers, industry bodies and other stakeholders.
  • Pre-prepared content allowed us to optimise Iceland’s social channels as well as reacting throughout the day to breaking news and customer interaction.
  • With the highest print and online readership in the UK, the Daily Mail was key. The newspaper had run its own anti-plastics campaign, and their team was eager to be involved. The result was a front-page story and in-depth feature.

Implementation of tactics:

  • Implemented a thorough media relations plan
  • Maximised the use of social media channels including influencer engagement

Measurement and evaluation:

The impact of this campaign was game-changing:

  • The following day, Greenpeace launched a petition to its database of one million, calling on the top four supermarkets to follow Iceland’s lead. Two further emails followed during January.
  • Iceland was invited to be part of the Plastics DEFRA Steering Committee.
  • Secretary of State Michael Gove sent a personal letter of support.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted and supported the campaign during Prime Minister’s Questions.
  • Inspired by Iceland, 200 MPs signed a petition, urging all UK supermarkets to take more action on plastic pollution.
  • Announcements on single use plastic followed within days and weeks from Waitrose, Asda, the BBC, Buckingham Palace and the Church of England.
  • Within a week of the announcement, research showed the number of people who viewed Iceland as the most environmentally friendly retailer rose from 3% to 15.2%.
  • YouGov consumer research showed the highest brand buzz in a decade achieved by the Iceland brand.
  • This campaign, along with Blue Planet II and the Government’s 25-year environmental plan, has completely transformed the plastics agenda, positioning the issue front-of-mind for consumers and the business sector.

524 pieces of coverage:

  • Front page of the Daily Mail with 1.5 million reach.
  • Prime time interviews on: The Today Programme (11.2M listeners); BBC Breakfast (2.2M viewers); Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan (2.5M viewers).
  • 55 broadcast shows aired the announcement (ITV lunchtime and evening news; Channel 4 news; BBC One evening news 6 and 10pm; Channel 5 evening news).
  • 87 pieces of press coverage – including coverage in every single national newspaper.
  • 230 radio shows aired the announcement across national and regional stations.
  • 27 radio shows aired interviews with Iceland’s leadership including BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, BBC Radio 5 Live, LBC Radio and BBC Radio 4 You & Yours.
  • Support from Friends of the Earth spokesperson on Channel 5 news.
  • Follow up coverage has included bespoke filming for BBC’s The One Show; Food Unwrapped and BBC News at 10. Richard Walker appeared on BBC Question Time.
  • Media interest continues from as far afield as Europe, North America and Russia.
  • Total 1.04bn opportunities to see.

Social reach:

  • The total social reach of the plastic campaign so far is 3,313,539, with an engagement rate of 21.65% compared with the industry benchmark of 2.5%.

Budget and cost effectiveness:

The campaign budget was £60,000 including agency fees, third party costs and expenses.