Paddling Against The Plastic Tide

By John Delacruz

I'm writing this as I host an open house event in our Advertising studio space at SJSU. Showcasing work is something I've been increasingly trying to do. Exhibiting student work is a great way to create exposure on campus and beyond, particularly when we work with live clients. The project I've been showing off today is one that has really demonstrated how our SJSU advertising and design students rise to a challenge and come up with the goods. My friends at Plastic Tides, an environmental non-profit now based out in Santa Cruz, set a brief that really tested the students' skills and team-working abilities.

In a nutshell, Plastic Tides were planning an unsupported stand-up paddle expedition circumnavigating Monterey Bay. They would set off from Santa Cruz, overnight at Moss Landing, and arrive in Monterey the following day. The purpose of the expedition was not scientific like their other expeditions tend to be. On this occasion they wanted to raise awareness on the issue of off-shore oil drilling, its relationship to plastics pollution and how regenerative and sustainable agricultural practices can help cut down on plastic usage and offer solutions for a healthy planet. Phew, big job! Our brief was to use the expedition as a platform for raising awareness of these issues. The only deliverable that was specified was a ten minute documentary from each team. Four teams of ten .... a helluva management challenge! Four documentaries and related awareness campaign. In five weeks!

Black Is Not The New Blue


Oil Runs Deep


Shocked faces and dropped jaws and sweaty palms aplenty on briefing day. It was important to remind the students that an advertising brief requires a range of creative executions that solve the client's problem. Sometimes they'll need to focus on print and tv, other times a movie may work best, or a number of digital platforms working in tandem, or ..... whatever is needed across however many media platforms and approaches that best tell a story. In this case, a documentary and multi-platform awareness campaign. Shock gave way to resolve and every student identified their strengths and set on to create a series of compelling stories told across multiple touchpoints.

Each team had a crew filming the launch of the expedition, interviewing Christian and Celine in their home preparing for the trip, interviewing a bunch of stakeholders, shooting b-roll, and making use of Plastic Tide's drone and iPhone footage. Each team created a unique take on the issues and supported their documentaries with a consistent tone of voice across social, print, experiential, environmental, and out of home.

The learning curve was huge. In terms of media and subject matter. These students leave the project having developed their skills across media and production, across storytelling techniques and creative strategies, and on the issues that they had to communicate! These students now know so much more about sustainability and the environmental risks of offshore oil drilling, the perils of plastics pollution, the advantages of regenerative agriculture, and the power of advertising and design for good. In all, a job well done and a great end to the semester.