REBEL (Reaching Everyone By Exposing Lies) is New Jersey’s state-sponsored youth anti-tobacco movement. Founded during “Kick Ash” weekend in November 2000, the movement has made a strong impact on smoking in the state. From 340 participants during “Kick Ash” weekend, the movement had grown to 3,000 within 8 months.
In the first half of 2001, Fleishman-Hillard (F-H) worked with the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services (DHSS) to launch the REBEL “Not For Sale” advertising campaign and the group’s own Web site in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty at the Liberty Science Center. It was here that REBEL unveiled its “Declaration of Independence from Tobacco.” Following the launch, REBEL county chapters began hosting events at a variety of public venues throughout New Jersey.
With summer approaching, REBEL needed a statewide, high profile activity to keep up momentum. REBEL members expressed interest in a program that would demonstrate their commitment to community service, in addition to helping people to make the positive choice not to smoke.
RESEARCH—Get off Your Butts
F-H researched projects compatible with teen advocacy groups, with an emphasis on volunteerism. Earlier in the spring, the Belmar Beach had announced a smoke-free policy, which interested REBEL. F-H decided to research the rationale behind smoke-free beaches.
A recent Gallup Poll found that teens who volunteer increase their knowledge of the world and the problems that face it.
Secondary research found that tobacco trash is the most common form of litter on New Jersey beaches. In April 2001, during a three-hour beach sweep in New Jersey, Clean Ocean Action recovered more than 22,000 cigarette butts and 804 cigarette lighters.
According to a recent study by the American Littoral Society, cigarette filters are composed of a form of plastic that can take 15 years to disintegrate. Sea animals and birds can mistake the filters for food, accidentally eat them and then die.
PLANNING—REBELs with a Cause
- Raise awareness among New Jersey residents of the prevalence of, and problems associated with, tobacco use on the state’s beaches.
- Generate involvement of REBEL chapters in a unified team effort.
- Motivate REBEL teens to create change.
- Inspire non-member teens to join REBEL.
- Create visibility of tobacco use on New Jersey beaches through a high-profile beach clean-up driven by REBEL chapters.
- Leverage a beach clean-up as an opportunity for REBEL chapters to network with civic, environmental and political organizations.
- Leverage the beach clean-up as a means to draw media attention to the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke and REBEL activities.
- Encourage non-member teens to join REBEL.
- Shore community municipal officers
- New Jersey residents
- Beachgoers and citizens-at-large
- REBEL and non-REBEL teens
- The media
- Each beach municipality had its own set of rules and regulations regarding events.
- REBEL members live in all counties in the state and all of the beaches required that the clean-up draw to a close by noon. Therefore coordinating bus pick-up times and locations was critical.
- This was a rain-or-shine event. Alternative arrangements had to be in place.
- REBEL had to compete with other summer activities to attract enough teens to have an impact.
- The original plan was for 300 participants; nearly 700 signed up, and DHSS decided not to turn anyone away.
EXECUTION/TACTICS—Beauty and the Beach
REBEL Beach Patrol
On August 20, 2001, REBEL members from all 21 New Jersey counties, known as the “REBEL Beach Patrol,” combed the Jersey shore from Sea Bright to Sandy Hook, cleaning up cigarette filters and other litter. State and local officials also participated in the event, including the DHSS Acting Commissioner and mayors of participating towns.
“The REBEL Beach Patrol” hit the beaches promptly at 9 a.m., clearing litter in teams of three or four for two hours, and recording their findings on special tabulation cards as they went. The next hour was spent manning a table on the beach, handing out information about New Jersey’s quit smoking programs, as well as Join REBEL cards.
Two IDVs wrapped in the REBEL “Not For Sale” advertising message traveled from beach-to-beach, promoting the event along the way.
At noon, the teens returned to their buses to join the rest of the “Beach Patrol” in Ocean City.
F-H worked with Clean Ocean Action and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to identify appropriate beaches. Clean Ocean Action also provided safety guidelines that F-H adapted for REBEL.
F-H posted information about the event on the REBEL Web site. F-H also wrote a variety of radio PSA’s for popular teen radio stations throughout the state. The numbers grew, slowly at first, and rapidly in the final few days.
F-H created a special logo for the day that appeared on T-shirts worn by every participant, as well as on water bottles and frisbees (for the celebration event). The same logo appeared on all communications materials.
The Spirit of Competition
F-H created incentives to encourage a spirit of competition among REBEL chapters. Awards were given for the most tobacco trash collected by a team, overall trash collection, recruitment success at local beaches and anti-tobacco sand sculptures.
To highlight the results of the environmental clean-up, F-H arranged a beach celebration following the clean-up in Ocean City. At the celebration, cigarette butts from all eight participating beaches were displayed in their clear bags, giving a visual snapshot of the extent of the problem. DHSS Acting Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando and Robert Tudor, Deputy Commissioner for the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, addressed the assembled teens. A local emcee from WAYV-FM Radio provided musical entertainment by broadcasting on site for the entire afternoon, providing, in effect, a four-hour commercial for REBEL. The broadcast included interviews with REBEL members and the DHSS Acting Commissioner.
F-H invited the press to the local beach clean-up sites to interview REBEL members and DHSS officials, take pictures of REBEL members in action and photograph the trash collected as displayed at the celebration. The press was also invited to the Ocean City celebration to see the results of the day’s efforts.
More Than Just a Day
While the beach clean-up was a one-day event, the effects of the “REBEL Beach Patrol“ continue. The data cards were forwarded to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection for an ongoing study on shore pollution.
More than 38,000 cigarette butts were collected from eight beaches.
Fleishman-Hillard’s media outreach resulted in more than 10 million media impressions. Media highlights included the Star-Ledger, Asbury Park Press, The Record, Courier News, Atlantic City Press and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
More than 700 REBEL members gathered to clean-up cigarette butts and other litter along the New Jersey shore.
The beach clean-up and other advertising and public relations campaigns resulted in REBEL membership increasing from 3,000 to 5,000.
F-H received numerous testimonials from New Jersey teens about the REBEL “Bust Your Butts on the Beach” Day…
“To see all of the cigarette butts piled together is disgusting, but I think it’ll influence some people not to smoke. And maybe it’ll make people aware that you can be cool without smoking.” – Stacy Snyder, 13
“It’s like the beach is one part sand, one part cigarette butts.” – Matthew Kostelnik, 16
“I think it’ll make a big difference when people see us cleaning cigarette filters off the beach. Some people might stop and think about what they are doing to the environment when they smoke.” – Channel Hamilton, 14