A new campaign spells out the reality of the sewage crisis

AMV BBDO’s campaign for COPI shines a light on sewage spills in UK waterways with the help of a faecal-inspired font

Poster that reads 'Join the smear campaign' in a font that's been designed to resemble sewage

AMV BBDO has followed up a 2021 campaign for Central Office of Public Interest that tackled air quality by turning its (hopefully gloved) hands to another environmental health disaster: sewage spills. According to the Environmental Agency, the number of spills in English rivers and seas doubled in 2023 compared to 2022 levels. Last year, this equated to 1,271 spills per day.

The campaign features messages such as ‘your dog is drinking this’, ‘your MPs voted for this’, ‘you’re swimming in this’, and ‘you’re rowing in this’ – a particularly timely line considering the Oxbridge Boat Race teams were advised to avoid contact with the water a few weeks ago.

Composite showing four outdoor displays featuring campaign messages written in a sewage-inspired font

To avoid any ambiguity, the campaign is spelling out the spillage issue in universally understandable terms with the help of a font that’s been designed to resemble sewage.

“It was important that, from an art directorial point of view, the many textures, shapes and colours looked as realistic as possible,” explains AMV BBDO art director Mario Kerkstra. This meant different shapes and sizes of excrement interspersed with congealed fats and foams, decaying organic matter, toilet paper, plasters, condoms, maggots and flies, as well as puddles and smears for good measure.

The letter 'T' displayed in a font designed to resemble sewage, including faecal matter and a condom

Typography artists Sean Freeman and Eve Steben helped to make the font look as realistic as possible by combining procedural textures and hand-styled photographic details to replicate the look of “various excrements and soft body water waste”. “Once brought together, our fantastically filthy sewage treatment features could be fully customised to feel as natural and off-putting as possible.”

The messages will be displayed across OOH spots, from billboards outside Parliament to locations near to pollution hotspots. Some of the displays promise to be responsive: live data will flag when a spill has taken place, which will then prompt the messages to be displayed. The aim is to “smear” MPs who have been complicit in the issue, and ultimately get people to check their MP’s voting record and sign a petition. All in all an excrement idea. Sorry, excellent.

Poster that reads 'You're swimming in this' in a font that's been designed to resemble sewage

Agency: AMV BBDO
CCOs: Nicholas Hulley, Nadja Lossgott
Creative Directors: Jack Smedley, George Hackforth-Jones
Art Director: Mario Kerkstra
Creatives: Laurens Grainger, Alicia Cliffe
Design and Typography: Sean Freeman, Eve Steben
Photography, 3D and Illustration: Sean Freeman
Art Production: Eve Steben