Follow a Strawberry From Birth to Grave in This Oddly Emotional Ad About Food Waste

The Ad Council's remarkable new campaign

Strawberries make a powerful statement in "Save the Food," a public service campaign breaking today from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Developed pro-bono by SapientNitro through The Ad Council, the initiative focuses on a sad reality: Some 40 percent of all food purchased in the U.S. each year goes uneaten, wasting money, water and energy to the tune of $162 billion. 

And consumers are mostly to blame. We throw food away too soon and too often. In fact, each of us trashes nearly 300 pounds of food every year. Wow, we suck. 

To illustrate the problem, a remarkable two-minute online film (with TV commercial edits) from Partizan director Martin Stirling follows a single strawberry from its salad days on the vine through its packaging odyssey and purchase by a typical American family.

Forgotten at the back of the fridge, our hero (and his increasingly funky bunch) fall into a sorry state, and we get the feeling things won't end well. 

It's a juicy performance, though the strawberry has the advantage of playing itself.

Moms are a primary target here, because "no one makes more of the decisions around food—planning, shopping, cooking and disposing," Gary Koepke, North American chief creative officer at SapientNitro, tells AdFreak. "We know that moms are compelled by facts that tie food waste to household finances, so the campaign emphasizes this information." 

Millennials are also a key audience, says Koepke, because they are "engaged and idealistic about helping the environment" and show an interest in "life hacks that help them experience more and waste less." 

If the strawberry's jaunty theme music sounds familiar, that's because it served as the soundtrack to the 2009 animated film Up, winning an Oscar for composer Michael Giacchino. (Disney donated the tune to the campaign.) 

Print, web and out-of-home ads are also in the mix, urging consumers to "Cook it. Store it. Share it" rather than prematurely trash milk, eggs, bread and chicken:

That "Best If Used" line really says more with less, and the crisp, uncluttered art direction is a highlight. A clean visual aesthetic also graces SaveTheFood.com, which provides detailed information and tips for cutting down on waste. 

Relying exclusively on donated media, the push includes outreach on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, plus support from Getty Images, Buzzfeed, Social Native, Upworthy and influencers like celebrity chef Tom Colicchio. 

Unlike hunger, pollution, poverty and other global concerns that seem insurmountable, food waste is imminently addressable, and the actions we can take are largely painless. "With small steps, we can save large amounts of food, and along with it, money and precious natural resources," says NRDC president Rhea Suh. 

What's more, ending food waste can save consumers money, an outcome wisely played up by the campaign, which maintains that throwing away less food can save an average family of four about $1,500 a year. 

Appealing to consumers' pocketbooks is always a smart tactic. After all, saving money has no sell-by date. More creative appears below.

CREDITS

The Advertising Council – NRDC – Save The Food
SapientNitro:
Alyssa Altman – Vice President Business Consulting
Ronald Shamah – Senior Vice President
Shade Vaughn – Vice President Marketing
Chris Hall – Vice President General Management
Peter Shanley – Vice President General Management
Donald Chestnut – Global CCO
Gary Koepke – Chief Creative Officer
Matthew Atkatz – Executive Creative Director, Creative Lead
Jenessa Carder – Strategy Lead
David Serrano – Client Services Director
Mary Zumba – Account Supervisor
Jacqueline Murphy – Manager Program Management
Monica Alameda – Senior Associate Producer
Bill Pauls – Executive Creative Director
David Iglesias – Senior Designer
Faye Ibars – Copywriter
Andrew Goldstein – Creative Director
Jason Levine – Creative Director
James Allen – Creative Director
Stephen Frederick Levy – Designer
Eduardo Santiesteban – Retouching Manager
Jose Acosta – Head of Production
Amy Houston – Print Producer
John McHale – Executive Creative Director, Experience Lead
Katie Plua – UX Design
Alicia Marshall – Designer
Jessica Gray – Designer
Andrew Hodge – Designer
Sara Commet – Copywriter
Bryan Scott – Art Director
Chris Burke – Senior Manager Interactive Development
Graydon Pleasants – Interactive Developer
Ravi Evani – Director of Technology
Sarah Jones – Senior Content Strategist
Sophia Calderone – Junior Interactive Developer
Kevin Rossum – Associate Marketing Strategy + Analysis
San San Ng – Designer
Louis Palacios – Editor
Alejandro Roses – Motion Graphics
Luis Giron – Sound Mixing
Ariel Bellumio – Post Supervisor
Stephie Wassmann – Producer
Alejandro Villanueva – Developer
Emilio Acebo – Developer
Yvette Gomez – Business Affairs Manager
Sean Black – North America Media Services Lead
Dan Parness – Media Supervisor
John Dasher – Sr. Media Planner
Zack Celzic – Sr. Media Planner
John Herman – Director Marketing Strategy & Analytics
Nicole Olivier – Media Planner
Melissa Bazilion – Media Supervisor
Brittany Schermerhorn – Associate Media Director
John Casey – Director, Media Relations 

Partizan:
Martin Stirling – Director
Lisa Tauscher – Executive Producer
Georges Bermann – Executive Producer
Molly Griffin – Head of Production
Megan Moore – Producer
Carlos Veron – Director of Photography
Nico Cotta – CD
Chris Allen & Beatrice Bowdon – Producers
James Cornwell – Lead Flame
Christopher Maslen – Flame Assist
Sezen Akpolat – 3D Producer
Tony Landais – Lead CG

Emre Samioglu, Utku Ertin, Doruk Saglam, Zafer Ercevik, Caglar Ozen, Altug Yılmazer, Enis Uzbek, Bogi Gulacsi – CG team

Final Cut:
Steve Ackroyd – Editor