The Little Big Lie

Our campaign for the California Tobacco Control Program calls out Big Tobacco on the cigarette butts polluting our Earth – and bodies – with harmful microplastics.

DC in partnership with the California Tobacco Control Program launched a campaign aimed at the lies spread by Big Tobacco, specifically those ‘tiny’ filters that do big harm. Cigarette butts are everywhere, and not only do they mitigate next to none of the risks of smoking, they’re polluting our environment and body with harmful microplastics.

The Little Big Lie campaign aims to educate and invigorate Californians to hold Big Tobacco accountable for one of the industry’s most sinister lies: that those little ‘biodegradable’ filters are helping smokers.

The truth? 

Filters filter practically none of the harmful chemicals from cigarettes and have created an insidious crisis in the form of microplastics, which are invading our planet and our bodies, smoker or not.

So how did DC take something everyone thinks they understand and publicize the issue in a way that gets past common misconceptions?

Instead of blaming the smoker, on which so many traditional cigarette butt pollution campaigns have focused, DC sought to redirect attention to the real root of the problem: the deceit of the tobacco industry surrounding the manufacturing and destructive, cumulative side effects filters and their microplastics have on our environment.

And while the rhymes and bright colors of our Little Big Lie campaign might seem harmless, pay attention and you will realize what those little cigarette butts are costing all of us. This was central to our creative strategy. The playful rhyming seems benign yet reveals a message that is dire, and thus mimics the underlying nightmare that is caused by these seemingly innocuous filters.

Orange, yellow, pink background animation graphic of a large sinister man in a suit holding the Earth covered in cigarette butts and laughing diabolically with white text reading: The tobacco industry’s plastic pollution is destroying our planet. We’ve had enough.
Dark blue background animation graphic of cigarette butt unraveling with orange squiggles coming out the bottom with the word MICROPLASTICS woven in, Orange text reading: The tobacco industry is a top global plastic polluter.
Animation graphic of a city skyline on the sandy beach and a light blue, wavy ocean filled with trash and cigarette butts with black text reading: The Microplastic Coast. (in white) Blame the tobacco industry.

In partnership with agencies Acento, Apartnership, Beyond and Quantasy + Associates, our team produced the Little Big Lie campaign in 7 languages that will run across all media channels throughout California. The environmentalist aspect of this campaign also inspired DC to follow an eco-friendly philosophy when planning and booking media. OOH, when possible, avoids disposable paper billboards, favoring digital ad spaces, electric vehicles, and painted murals using eco-friendly paints.

Check out more on this campaign and how individuals can take part at