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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

Self-Reflect Before You Self-Check

Audience Honor in Public Service Announcement


Today’s grocery chains are making record profits, and as minimum wage rises, those same chains are seeing it as a threat to their bottom line. Their response? Install self-scan technology—and ask customers to do the work for free.

For our client UFCW Local 832’s members, this means losing hours and an increased workload for those left in stores.

Sure, with only a few scannable items and a clear lane ahead, self-checkout can be alluring.

But this campaign seeks to change how people think about self-checkout—to invite them to see how their choice of lane can impact workers—and the ways their experience and convenience aren’t at the centre of it.

Have a strange gourd in your basket? Good luck finding it by name. Missing an item on special? Say goodbye to your raincheck. Want cash back? Not happening.

Plus, self-checkouts’ sensitive weight sensors can go off at seemingly random times, prompting the assistance of a cashier anyway. If that person is already serving someone else, it can cause you to wait longer than you would have in the regular checkout line.

With all this in mind, UpHouse took a satirical approach to waking people up to the “working for free” aspect of self-checkout, casting a pandering boss as the self-checkout machine in a video inflicting an impromptu “performance review” on the unwitting customers.

The delivery style allowed us to overtly point out the ways self-checkout really isn’t working for anyone—and who really benefits—and ask people to reconsider their choice of lane.

Strategy and Execution

While we all have first-hand experience with self-checkout machines at the grocery store—we wanted to ground our campaign in the lived experience of the experts who interact with them everyday.

So, we polled UFCW Local 832’s members and approximately 380 grocery store workers responded to tell us the failings they’d seen with self-checkout machines—how many customers aren’t comfortable with it, and how cashiers really are the best—and only way—to consistently check out.

Armed with this knowledge, we wrote a campaign video script outlining the key ways cashiers do it better—highlighting customers’ lack of product knowledge, our failing attempts to check out speedily, and the ways we miss out on friendly interactions. 

By capturing relatable moments with self-checkouts, we invited people to see themselves in these customers and reconsider their own reasons for choosing self-checkout. The video ends with the final “perk” of using self-checkout from the corporations’ perspectives—how much profits they save, and workers they don’t need.

While this is the one overtly “stick it to the man” message we took on, we wanted the campaign to remain as impartial as possible. People don’t feel “mediocre” about unions, they are either for them or against them, so we wanted this campaign to bridge the gap between people—whether they’re for or against unions—we wanted them to see how self-checkouts are serving the corporations first.

This impartial tone was the key ingredient to our campaign, and inspired our mindset-nudging tagline, Self-Reflect Before You Self-Check.

No one likes being told what to do, so we came up with a tagline that invited people to consider their values, and what checkout line might help them act more in line with those.

This sentiment and tagline, as well as all the research we’d done, helped inspire a campaign landing page outlining the challenges self-checkouts are creating for customers and workers, the ways paid workers do it better, and what you can do to help stabilize grocery store workers’ workloads.

The campaign visual identity also took on a satirical vibe, mimicking the look of some of the major grocery chains’ advertisements.

With the challenge of not being able to film in an actual grocery store with their cooperation, we built faux shelves and stocked fake products as props. We leaned into a “pop art” surrealist look to our store, allowing viewers to forgive our mimicry while still situating them firmly in the scene of a grocery store.

Display ads were geared toward driving behaviour change, leaning on the animated call-to-action, Self-Reflect Before You Self-Check, with the lead-up “the choice is yours—where do you want your money going?” or “Convenient for the customer, or a convenient way to save profits? Who is self-checkout working for?”

Our audio ads run on Spotify personified the self-checkout machine giving live feedback to customers, humourously interspersed with “boops” and “beeps” and—“no, I’m not getting what that is.” This prompts people to think: we wouldn’t put up with this performance from a person, so why are we accepting it from a machine?


With the goal of creating awareness surrounding the consequences their choice of lane at the grocery store has, we targeted Manitobans aged 18-54 surrounding unionized grocery stores, based on shopping behaviours, sustainable living and philanthropy-mindedness and other related traits on Spotify, Meta, Google, TikTok and YouTube.

To stretch the client’s budget and time in market, we are running a flighted campaign, peaking during holiday seasons that are typically associated with large meals, being culturally inclusive, as well as zeroing in on the dates identified as the busiest shopping periods by the industry.

We ran radio ads across nine different stations including university, talk, country and top hit programming to reach as wide an audience as possible. We aimed to capture folks in potential consideration moments, like peak drive periods when they might be en route to a grocery store or on their way home from work.

Among the campaign materials, we took into consideration the effects of echoic memory, which lasts longer than iconic (visual memory)—lasting two to four seconds versus half a second, through frequent repetition of the campaign slogan over the campaign period

To date, with just two holiday flights behind us, the campaign has accumulated over 700,000 impressions and 4,685 clicks among Manitobans, and have seen high engagement with the ad creatives, seeing 96% of people view the video to at least 50%. Online audiences also actively engaged in discussions on social media and shared the campaign video to their feeds. 


Video for Self-Reflect Before You Self-Check

Entrant Company / Organization Name

UpHouse Inc., UFCW Local 832


Entry Credits