Maine 'rubber duckie' ad ruffles LCO's feathers

Maine 'rubber duckie' ad ruffles LCO's feathers

State environmental officials are planning to pull an ad from their website that urges Mainers to restrict the use of lawn chemicals when tending to yards and gardens. The move follows complaints from a number of lawncare companies about the 30-second so-called "rubber duckie" commercial.

April 11, 2011

A commercial has caught the attention of some LCO's and landscapers in Maine.

The commercial, which started airing last week on network TV in Maine, was made on behalf of Think Blue Maine, a coalition of interests dedicated to improving water quality. It builds on the "rubber duckie" campaign originally launched a few years.

The little critters represent lawn chemicals, and the ad shows them morphing into horned red devils as they get washed down drains, into rivers, lakes and bays. The aim is to warn Mainers about the environmental damage that can be caused by stormwater runoff if too much lawn chemical is used.

State officials say the ad generated a lot of angry emails from lawncare and landscaping professionals who said that it literally demonizes them. But Jamie Fitch says it was not the intention of the spot to advocate against the use of lawn chemicals.

"We're not telling anyone to stop using, we're asking them to reduce their use of certain products, only use what's necessary," says Fitch, who is with the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, one of the 45 entities making up the Think Blue Maine partnership.

Another member is the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. DEP spokeswoman Sam Depoy Warren says the ad campaign was meant to encourage householders to seek the help of the lawncare professionals this summer, rather than do it themselves.

"We believe that these companies are doing the right thing, and using best practices; they're using products that have the least detrimental effect on the environment as possible," she says. "So we encourage people to use those companies because they're the experts, and all we're doing is reminding people that what you put on your lawn ends up in the water system."

Nevertheless, Warren says she understands why the ad's images were not welcomed by the lawncare industry. "I can see where they're coming from," she says. "I think this ad tried to be edgy and really capture people's attention, and in doing that it ruffled some feathers."

Warren says the ad will be removed from the website. It will however continue to air on television until the end of the month, and can also be viewed at

State officials and Think Blue Maine will think long and hard, she says, before deciding whether to re-run the TV ad in the spring of 2012.

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