Case StudyThe Story of Stuff Series

The 20-minute lecture about garbage that, against all odds, became a viral sensation and launched a global movement.

The Challenge

Alert the world to the problems with how we produce, consume and throw away our stuff.

The Results

A massively viral video series that brought in hundreds of millions of media impressions, infiltrated more than 1,500 classrooms and started a movement for change.

The Story

We had never met anyone so passionate about the materials economy. Come to think of it, we had never even heard of the materials economy. But here was Annie Leonard — fast-talking, funny and brilliant — asking us to help bring her lecture about “Stuff” to the web.

"It’s an hour long,” she explained. We winced.

“Can it be five minutes?” we asked, believing nothing online could hold attention longer than a heartbeat.

“I can do it in twenty.”

We figured only hard-core garbage activists would be inspired. But we poured our hearts into Annie’s project because we thought the content was revolutionary and the story absolutely had to be told. We helped her re-write the talk. We invented a world of living whiteboards (long before it was the go-to style for explaining complex topics). We challenged ourselves to bring every abstract concept to the tangible human scale.

In the days before launch, our team could tell we had something special and we began to wonder if this piece might actually get beyond the choir. Our strategists ran an all-out blitz to bloggers and activists with influence. And then we flipped the switch — it was like opening a floodgate. The Story of Stuff would be watched over 15 million times and attract over 200,000 Facebook fans. It would be shown in more than 1,500 classrooms, turn Annie into an Internet celebrity and become a favorite punching bag of Glenn Beck.

We had underestimated the public’s hunger for important content. We had underestimated the power of a story well-told. We never will again.

Annie built off the film’s success to launch an organization and Free Range has been with her every step of the way. Together we’ve created six follow-up films bringing in millions more viewers, designed a rich interactive website and supported the launch of Annie’s New York Times bestselling book.

In a world obsessed with materialism and growth at any cost, Annie has provided a rallying point for those of us who know something better is possible. And she’s proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that a great story can make great change possible.

“Before working with you guys, the only people who listened to me were fellow technical garbage wonks,” Annie told us. “Free Range helped me turn my overwhelming mountain of facts into an inspiring story — one good enough to share 15 million times and counting."

The Orignial Story of Stuff (2007)

The Story of Bottled Water (2009)

The Story of Solutions (2013)

Details The Story of Stuff Series

The Style

To illustrate the rich world of Annie's brain on a tight budget, we innovated an expressive stick-figure style. It would come to be copied literally thousands of times by others who hoped to repeat Annie’s success.

The Story of Stuff Series
The Story of Stuff Series
The Story of Stuff Series

The Book

Free Range provided cover design and illustrations for the Annie's New York Times Bestseller.

The Story of Stuff Series
Erica Priggen

“Watching The Story of Stuff come to life, in my gut I knew we were about to have a big impact…we just didn’t know how big. It's been an honor to work with Annie and her team. What a gift!”

Erica Priggen Executive Producer Profile