Invasion of the Fatbergs Coming to a Screen Near You

April 23, 2019

Featured

Florida outreach campaign centers around spoof horror-movie trailer

JEA (Jacksonville, Fla.) worked with St. John & Partners (Jacksonville, Fla.) to produce the “Invasion of the Fatbergs” outreach campaign to educate customers what they should never dispose of down drains. Photo courtesy of JEA.

JEA (Jacksonville, Fla.) worked with St. John & Partners (Jacksonville, Fla.) to produce the “Invasion of the Fatbergs” outreach campaign to educate customers on what they should never discard down drains. Photo courtesy of JEA.

The horrors of fatbergs — those accumulations of grease, baby wipes, paper towels, and other trash that combine to block wastewater pipes — are very real for water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs). JEA, a public utility in Jacksonville, Fla., decided to have a little fun bringing these horrors to life with Frederick “Freddy” Fatberg.

In February, the utility launched its “Invasion of the Fatbergs” outreach campaign, complete with a movie trailer, interactive website, and social media profiles for Freddy. “Our goal was to create something memorable while educating our service territory,” said David Goldberg, director of customer and community engagement at JEA.

Goldberg called a brainstorming meeting with other communications staff to decide how to educate their customers on the harm of disposing baby wipes and other trash down drains. The goal is to change their behavior to protect the community’s water infrastructure. “I really wanted to come up with something that was going to be fun for people,” he said.

The campaign includes an interactive website and the trailer for a spoof horror movie starring Frederick “Freddy” Fatberg. Photo courtesy of JEA.

The campaign includes an interactive website and the trailer for a spoof horror movie starring Frederick “Freddy” Fatberg. Photo courtesy of JEA.

So, with the help of the advertising firm, St. John & Partners (Jacksonville, Fla.), JEA released a trailer for a spoof horror movie. “From the creators of ‘I Know What You Flushed Last Summer’ comes the tale of a sunny #Florida town in the fight for their life — against #fatbergs,” reads the video’s description. The video, which stars not only local actors but also JEA staff, has been viewed more than 236,500 times and been shared in 47 states and 61 countries, Goldberg said.

Another main component of the campaign is the Invasion of the Fatbergs interactive website. In addition to learning about the problem and how individuals can help fix it, the public can vote on their favorite scream from the video. Freddy’s Instagram account and Facebook account include promotional images for the campaign, photos of Freddy, and 15-second teasers for the trailer.

Goldberg estimates that both the trailer and website have reached more than a million people.

“We’ve had really great success,” Goldberg said. “It’s been really neat to see how much interest this has garnered.”

JEA also took the campaign out into the community. They have shown the trailer in local movie theaters. They also have made movie posters which have been distributed to local businesses and put up in the bathrooms at JEA headquarters, Goldberg said.

The video uses humor to teach the public that such items as fats, oils, and grease as well as baby wipes can cause costly damages to wastewater treatment infrastructure. Photo courtesy of JEA.

The video uses humor to teach the public that fats, oils, and grease, as well as such items as baby wipes, can cause costly damages to wastewater treatment infrastructure. Photo courtesy of JEA.

“People of all demographics are finding something about the campaign that is both memorable and meaningful,” Goldberg said.

JEA encourages other utilities to share the video and the campaign’s other outreach materials.  “We want people to be able to use it and share it,” Goldberg said. “This issue is unfortunately shared by all utilities across the country if not the world.”

 JEA spends an estimated $500,000 to $800,000 each year to fix problems related to fatbergs and other items clogging pipes. The utility hopes the campaign will help change behavior and reduce the problem. Photo courtesy of JEA.

JEA spends an estimated $500,000 to $800,000 each year to fix problems related to fatbergs and other items clogging pipes. The utility hopes the campaign will help change behavior and reduce the problem. Photo courtesy of JEA.

The campaign cost $73,000 to produce, but this pales in comparison to the cost of responding to clogs caused by fatbergs, Goldberg said. He estimates that JEA spends anywhere from $500,000 to $800,000 each year on this issue.

Before the campaign began, JEA invited representatives from Kimberly Clark Corp. (Irving, Texas), the company that owns Cottonelle®, to their facility. These representatives presented their research on the differences between un-flushable baby wipes and those the company labels as flushable. The company worked with JEA staff to conduct testing at its facility and plans on returning to see if behaviors have changed since the release of the campaign, Goldberg said. “It’s really comprehensive.”

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

WEF Highlights Showcases Flushables Outreach Efforts

As the nondispersibles issue continues to grow, utilities are turning to humor to educate the public. In the footsteps of the Singing Sewermen from Thames Water (London), utilities are creating unique and humorous public service announcements (PSAs) and campaigns to educate the public about what can and cannot go down the drain or toilet.

Use keyword FlushablePSA to find all WEF Highlights articles on these efforts. Do you have a unique flushable PSA to share? Send it to highlights@wef.org.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
, , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.