Public Relations Programs; Category A-2; Public Service
“TAPP: Think About Personal Pollution” Campaign
RB Oppenheim Associates and the City of Tallahassee

Research/Situation Analysis: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection reports that more than half of the pollution that enters Florida’s surface waters and more than 75 percent of the pollutants in Florida’s lakes are attributable to nonpoint source (NPS) runoff – water pollution that cannot be traced to a specific point of origin. NPS pollution is generated primarily through human activity and potential sources include pet waste, fertilizers and pesticides, failing septic systems, urban stormwater runoff, construction and trash.  During a rainstorm, water that is not absorbed into the soil washes across the land surface, accumulating natural or man-made pollutants and conveying them to surface waters or groundwater.  Because of this, waterways throughout the City of Tallahassee’s (COT) jurisdiction are under federal mandate to meet water quality standards.  In an effort to raise awareness of NPS pollution, the COT’s Stormwater Management Division partnered with a team of consultants to conduct an outreach campaign – TAPP: Think About Personal Pollution – to educate area residents about protecting local water by limiting personal pollution.  Telephone surveys and focus groups were conducted before and after each campaign phase to measure effectiveness.  Phase Three began October 2008 and ended December 31, 2009.  

Objectives: To conduct a campaign that would: (1) increase awareness of the TAPP program and slogan by 20 percent among COT residents; (2) increase the number of area residents who pick up their pets’ waste by 5 percent; (3) increase the number of area residents who use non-phosphorus fertilizer by 5 percent; (4) receive a three-to-one ratio of paid-to-free spots on local TV media outlets throughout the four-month campaign; and (5) achieve 500,000 total impressions via TAPP’s Web banner ads on  Results of objectives 1 – 3 will be determined by a survey of Tallahassee residents, with objectives 4 – 5 evaluated by media affidavits.

Implementation: Two focus groups were conducted in October 2008 to identify actions residents were already taking or could take to reduce water pollution, knowledge and understanding of contributing factors to water pollution, awareness of the TAPP campaign and to evaluate existing campaign materials.  Based on the results of the focus groups, a creative team developed key messages with compelling, simple and easily-understood statements summarizing core concepts of the campaign. The key messages were used in all marketing communication materials, including fliers and other printed tools, TV public service announcements (PSAs), and the TAPP Website ( The Website was updated regularly with information and the URL was included in all collateral materials.  The creative team produced two new TV PSAs – each with a strong call to action – to air on five local broadcast channels and 17 cable networks alongside three previously-produced PSAs. In addition, two billboard ads were created and placed in six high-traffic locations March – June 2009.  A TAPP Web banner ad was displayed on the Tallahassee Democrat’s homepage Aug. 1 – Oct. 31, 2009. The TAPP team made 30 outreach presentations and participated in 17 community events to further expand the reach of the program. A telephone survey was conducted at the end of the campaign to identify changes in awareness and behavior. Results were presented at an editorial board meeting with the Tallahassee Democrat, an interview on WFSU-FM (Public Radio), a press conference with city officials and a presentation to the Tallahassee City Commission.

Evaluation:  Based on the telephone survey conducted at the end of the campaign, (1) nearly 67 percent of respondents had heard, read or seen the TAPP slogan, a 27.7 percent increase from the 2007 survey, surpassing our goal of a 20 percent increase.  (2) Due to the catchy “Things Like Poop” PSA, nearly 30 percent of respondents indicated that they had begun to pick up their pets’ waste, an increase of 23.3 percent, exceeding our goal of 5 percent.  The PSAs (which also ran at no charge on COT’s TV station from June through November 2009 and on the City’s YouTube channel) have been hugely successful and earned the production team an Emmy and an Addy!  (3) Roughly 18 percent of respondents who used fertilizer have made a change to non-phosphorus fertilizer within the last six months, exceeding our goal of 5 percent. (4) While the COT requested a three-to-one ratio of paid-to-free spots, media outlets throughout Tallahassee delivered more than a one-to-two ratio (a 229 percent in-kind match). Finally, (5) the TAPP Web banner ads on, garnered 1.4 million impressions, nearly tripling our goal of 500,000!  News coverage of these results was extensive, including stories in all local media and an editorial and column in the Tallahassee Democrat. Additionally, nearly four months after our press conference took place, another bylined column in the Democrat discussed a potential legislative plastic-bag ban and how it would affect the TAPP campaign.  The “Laughing Stock,” a local, issue-oriented, satirical, music troupe paid tribute to TAPP by creating an original spoof to the 60s hit song “Alley Oop.” Best of all, other cities have requested educational materials to implement similar programs in their communities to protect their local waterways.

Budget: For the campaign running Oct. 2008 – Dec. 2009 a total of $276,423 was spent with $298,488 donated in-kind – a match of 108 percent! Production costs for the PSAs, including research, conceptualization and creation for the TV spots totaled $23,750.  The TV media budget was $136,933, with an additional $136,458 in donated airtime. RBOA’s PR and media-buying services – more than 160 hours of professional time – valued at $20,190, were provided in-kind.