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From the 8th Annual Shorty Impact Awards

Little Big Lie

Bronze Honor in Public Health


The California Tobacco Prevention Program worked with Duncan Channon on a campaign to reveal the truth -- that microplastic cigarette waste is the tobacco industry’s Little Big Lie. The  filters from cigarettes, and the microplastics they contain, are not only ruining the planet, but also our bodies. The campaign sought to educate Californians about the harms of Big Tobacco's toxic, microplastic waste and invigorate them to hold the tobacco industry accountable. 

These cigarette filters, that in fact filter practically nothing, are also the most littered item in California, quickly becoming “butts” and further contributing to a global microplastics crisis. While most Californians know cigarette butts are a massive problem to our oceans, outside of beach cleanups, not a lot is being done.


Strategy and Execution

The creative strategy for this integrated statewide campaign was to redirect attention (and blame) away from those who use tobacco and focus on the real root of the problem: the deceit of the tobacco industry and the cumulative effects that cigarette butts and microplastics have on the environment and our health. The campaign leveraged core environmentalists to do just that.

The playful rhyming in the campaign might seem benign, but it revealed a message that was dire, and in turn mimicked the underlying nightmare that is caused by the butts. The ads featured messaging like: “Big Tobacco you’ll have to answer for your despicable ride, for your wake of destruction, your Little Big Lie.” The utilization of bright colors was intentional, to draw attention to the toxicity of cigarettes and set the tone for the hypocrisy of the lies we are told by the tobacco companies about the benefits of using a filter, portraying them instead as the unnatural and manufactured things they are.

The Little Big Lie campaign was wide reaching, with media running throughout the state in seven different languages. The media strategy was centered on building relevance and authority with environmentalists on the platforms that are driving the conversation around social justice and environmental issues. High-reach media placements across TV and radio helped to amplify messaging, while digital tactics helped to further educate audiences by running across trusted premium digital publishers, native placements, and environmental influencers. The environmental aspect of this campaign inspired an eco-friendly philosophy when planning and booking media. OOH, where possible, avoided wasteful vinyl billboards, favoring digital ad spaces, electric vehicle charging stations, and painted murals using environmentally-friendly paint. 

Campaign content highlighted facts like cigarette butts are made of toxic microplastics, and you will find them on California beaches 9x more often than plastic straws. Paid social assets highlighted the harm that microplastics can cause on the body, when they are found in our water, food, air and even us. The overall creative of the campaign positioned this issue as everyone’s, not just people who smoke, with the blame falling solely on Big Tobacco.

People were driven to a landing page that communicated the ways to speak up and take action.



Successful partnerships were created with influencers to drive paid social messaging, including professional skimboarder Blair Conklin, who has a passion for the environment and a following of 1.3M+ on TikTok and 257K on Instagram. This partnership alone saw 4MM+ organic and boosted impressions across platforms with total reach exceeding 2MM+.

The wider results of the Little Big Lies campaign were phenomenal:


Video for Little Big Lie

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Duncan Channon, California Tobacco Prevention Program


Entry Credits