Water is Life Digital Venmo Micro Hack by Deutsch New York

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Venmo Micro Hack

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Industry Charities, Foundations, Volunteers
Media Digital, Interactive & Mobile
Market United States
Agency Deutsch New York
Chief Creative Officer Dan Kelleher
Executive Creative Director Menno Kluin
Creative Director Frank Cartagena, Sam Shepherd
Art Director Ilana Wolstein
Copywriter Fanny Josefsson
Released July 2016


Cannes Lions 2017
Mobile Social : Targeted Communication Silver Lion
Mobile Social: Social Purpose Bronze Lion

Credits & Description

Media: Online
Category: Electronics, Technology
Agency: Deutsch
Geo: United States
WATERisLIFE: Venmo Micro Hack
Advertising Agency: Deutsch New York, New York, USA
N.A. Chief Creative Officer: Pete Favat
N.A. Chief Digital Officer: Winston Binch
Chief Creative Officer: Dan Kelleher
Executive Creative Director: Menno Kluin
Creative Directors: Frank Cartagena, Sam Shepherd
Art Director: Ilana Wolstein
Copywriter: Fanny Josefsson
Associate Design Director: Brian Gartside
Design Intern: John Sampson
Head of Integrated Production: Joe Calabrese
Editors: Aaron Schillinger, Matt Mullen
Sr. Post Producer: Francess Tom - Sahr
Director of Digital Production: Suzanne Molinaro
Digital Producer: Alisyn Trani
Developer: Marina Brodskaya
Project managers: Marea Grossman, Michelle Ziff
Campaign Description:
To get millennials to consider donating, clean water charity WATERisLIFE hacked Venmo - the most popular payment app among their new target - by turning a thousand 1-cent payments into hyper-targeted ads that dominated their global news feed, actually creating a new media platform to be able to talk directly to millennials in their own language.
Venmo works like a social media community, where you add personalized messages to every digital payment. You can see your friends’ activity in your feed, where all recent payments are listed, and people often use the caption for internal jokes or simply expressing themselves in emojis. With millions of users, the app is extremely popular in America, and especially amongst our millennial target. The problem? Venmo doesn’t allow ads. We decided to hack them. After discovering that there is virtually no character limit for the messages you can add to a payment, we hijacked these captions by paying 1,000 unsuspecting users 1-cent. Each 1-cent payment became a hyper-targeted, personalized ad made of over 2000 emojis and message based on each users’ activity, making them impossible to miss in users’ feeds.
For $10, we targeted 1,000 people on the app, turning every payment into a personalized ad that related to pizza, beer, gas money and more. All ads were automatically published to users’ news feeds, and Venmo’s public global feed where they could be seen by millions of users. We had created our own media channel.The campaign was quickly picked up by media outlets Gizmodo, PSFK, Techcrunch and more, as well as advertising publications like Adweek, earning us a total of $1.78 million worth of earned media—priceless exposure for a small charity.After quickly raising over $1,000 in micro donations on our first day, Venmo shut us down—but offered WATERisLIFE the app’s third-ever charity account, allowing us to legitimately raise money next to much bigger charities like The American Heart Association and Malaria No More.We had taken a charity to the cyber heart of American Millennials.
Millennials are ditching cash and credit cards for digital payments, and don’t see donating to charities as an easy, everyday thing. To raise millennial awareness and increase donations to clean water charity WATERisLIFE, we decided to use Venmo, American millennials’ favorite payment app.
On the 4th of July, one of the biggest days for spending money out with your friends, we monitored Venmo’s global feed online to see who was paying who back, and for what; then we immediately sent them a micro payment. People paying each other back for things like beer and pizza immediately received a 1-cent payment with a relatable caption, and a direct link to donate. Users started paying us back on Venmo and reposted our ads, using the caption to spread our message about clean water.