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O&M Hong Kong uses DNA testing to put a face to litterbugs

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MUMBAI: Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong (Ogilvy) has launched a city-wide campaign for the Hong Kong CleanUp Initiative organised by Ecozine and The Nature Conservancy. The campaign, entitled ‘The Face of Litter’, has launched in conjunction with Global Earth Day.

With a staggering sixteen thousand tons of waste dumped in Hong Kong every day, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the extent of littering across the city, pinpoint those responsible and encourage people to change their behaviour.

Turning to science for answers, Ogilvy has targeted key locations in Hong Kong to collect, analyse and create DNA-based composites of the perpetrators. By combining the expertise of US-based research centres and advanced Snapshot DNA phenotyping provided by ParabonNanoLabs, data has been used to create a visual representation of the person who has littered. Because age is impossible to determine through DNA alone, but still integral in creating an accurate portrait, DNA data has been combined with other factors, such as demographics based on the type of litter and where it was collected to determine the approximate age of the litterer.

Ogilvy & Mather Group Hong Kong chief creative officer Reed Collins said, “This campaign is one of a kind. It’s interactive. It’s innovative. It’s our own science experiment that we’re using to create social change. Litter is such a major problem in Hong Kong and thanks to newly available DNA technology we can now put a face to this anonymous crime and get people to think twice about littering.”

The Hong Kong Cleanup founder and CEO Lisa Christensen added, "We are thrilled to be part of this innovative campaign, which is sure to have a positive impact on people and the community. Last year, during the six-week Hong Kong Cleanup Challenge, 418 teams comprising 51,064 participants, collected a total of 3,894,000 kgs of litter from city streets, coastal area's and country trails. Sadly, we suffer from a serious 'pick up after me' mentality, and this simply must change."

OgilvyOne Hong Kong executive creative director Rafael Guida said, “While this method may not identify specific individuals, it will be enough to make people think twice about littering. The campaign combines a public service message with science and technology, enabling us to communicate with Hongkongers in a very different way.”

Poster portraits of perpetrators will be placed across the city as well as online. To create further awareness, Ogilvy will also be promoting a video that demonstrates the experiment and warns people not to litter at the risk of becoming the next face of the campaign. 

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