Originally created 08/10/00

Ads aim to curb drivers' dirty habits



AIKEN - The red pickup eased into traffic beneath South Boundary's canopy of oaks, ordinary enough until it rolled into view of a waiting camera.

"All right, Steve, we're making the turn," the driver shouted.

At that moment, a shower of empty soda cans and crumpled paper flew from the back of the pickup onto the pavement at South Boundary and Marlboro. It was captured on video for public service announcements that will air in September and October as the city of Aiken makes it plain: "We don't have to put up with that trash."

What viewers won't see is the street sweeper that trailed the pickup Wednesday as the commercial was shot, quickly getting rid of the litter.

Using city equipment and local talent, Aiken is getting the ad campaign for $2,335, including production costs and air time for about 400 ads on local cable channels, including ESPN, TNT, Lifetime, TNN, TBS and the Discovery Channel. CableVantage is donating 100 spots worth $500.

The local ad will run in conjunction with a famous national one produced by "Keep America Beautiful" - the one that shows an American Indian walking a littered landscape as tears well in his eyes.

Footage shot Wednesday included some of Aiken's beauty spots - the fountain at Laurens Street and Park Avenue, the entrance to Hopeland Gardens, the horse district, and South Boundary. A voice-over will tell people: "You live in one of the most beautiful cities in America. But the view is spoiled when people carelessly litter our public places."

Only one shot took several takes, to the chagrin of publicist Steve Hale, who was lying in the truck bed with a smelly bag of garbage to toss out trash on cue from the driver, city employee Steve Roach.

On the first take, Mr. Hale's throwing arm was visible. On the second, he managed to lob only one empty can onto the dirt road by the Aiken Training Track. The third was a wrap - thankfully, he said.

"I'd shake your hand," producer Eric Martin told him, "but I know where it's been."

"We're trying to get people thinking about the litter issue," said Kenny Cook, the city's assistant director of public works. "We hope this will make them stop and think that when you stop at that traffic light, you don't flip a cigarette butt out the window. You don't keep trash in the back of your truck where wind can catch it and spread it around."

In October, residents will find out how well the message has sunk in. The city plans a "zero-tolerance" weekend, when police will pay special attention to litterers. That weekend also will include neighborhood clean-up projects, Mr. Cook said.

John Gladden, chairman of the city's Environmental Committee, was out of town Wednesday when the ads were shot. But public works officials credit him and other members of the residents committee with developing the assault on litter.

"The committee felt that litter was becoming a serious problem that we needed to address," Mr. Cook said. "This public awareness campaign is part of that effort."

Reach Margaret N. O'Shea at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.