King County Is So Flushing Awesome

With tipping fees steadily increasing, King County, Washington, knew it had to do something to change customer behavior. Cue the music video.
King County Is So Flushing Awesome
King County launched the catchy "Flushing Awesome" campaign in June 2014 in an effort to reduce the amount of trash being flushed down toilets.

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Listen to it once, and you’ll be humming the wastewater-themed Macklemore parody often. It’s an earworm, all right — a catchy little tune intended to not only entertain, but also inform and change customer behavior.

The song, “This is Flushing Awesome,” and videos are part of a pricey multimedia public service campaign from King County (Washington) Wastewater Treatment Division, which is hoping to decrease costs associated with the improper disposal of wipes, personal hygiene products and other trash. In 2013, the County spent $120,000 to remove those unwanted items from the wastewater system and haul them to landfills. With expenses steadily increasing, the County knew it had a problem.

“That amount doesn’t even begin to account for the other costs that we have regarding increased maintenance and capital projects like installation of grinders and other equipment,” says Annie Kolb-Nelson, media relations for King County. “These materials cause equipment to wear out more quickly.”

When King County realized the problem wasn’t going away, it enlisted the help of Golden Lasso, a Seattle marketing firm, to come up with something catchy — something that would eventually spread across social media and get people talking about the expense of flushing the irksome items.

“We wanted to make it colorful and humorous, too,” says Kolb-Nelson. “We got people laughing at it. People are enjoying the entertainment value but getting a serious message out of it."

The campaign launched in June 2014 with two videos. Soon afterward, King County expanded the ads to local radio and television, even running a Spanish and Chinese version of the Macklemore parody.

“We have a pretty ethnically diverse population in the Seattle area,” Kolb-Nelson says. “We have 1.5 million people in our service area, which is why it made sense for us to do TV and radio.”

Although some taxpayers have questioned whether the campaign expense was necessary — video production cost $40,000 and ad buys cost $73,000 — Kolb-Nelson insists that educating the public and trying to curb behavior is something that must be addressed.

“We have a responsibility to educate our ratepayers about the system and the overall environment,” she says. “There are monetary costs and there are also environmental impacts."

And so far, it appears that funny wins. The “Flushing Awesome” video has had more than 11,000 hits on YouTube. The #FlushingAwesome hashtag has been shared across social media, and local news programs have reported not only on the campaign, but also on what the trash looks like when it comes through the system. But the final verdict will come when King County takes a look at its operations and maintenance reports.

“We have several years of reports from tipping fees and screening volumes,” says Kolb-Nelson. “It’s steadily increased in the past seven or eight years.”

The campaign will run indefinitely, but if you want to watch the video, you better get to it: King County has an agreement with Macklemore to use the song only until Sept. 30. And if you’re a really big fan — or you’re hoping to get a head start on some holiday shopping — check out the King County apparel available at Zazzle.

It’s all flushing awesome.



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