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, 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.


The Advertising Council – NRDC – Save The Food


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 


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

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.