WORLD WATER DAY for Population Services International


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Industry Environmental & Animal Issues
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Released July 2012

Credits & Description

Category: Best Use of Social Media
Product/Service: GLOBAL HEALTH
Producer: Max Joseph (GOOD)
Digital Strategist: Colin Moffett (Weber Shandwick)
Account Manager: Kelly Whitley (Weber Shandwick)
Strategic Counsel: Paul Massey (Weber Shandwick)
Media placement: Viral Video Series - YouTube - 22 March 2009

Summary of the Campaign
Four to five children die every day due to lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation. Yet, the problem of clean drinking water and disease is staggering and largely unacknowledged. Few understand how unsafe water and sanitation impacts health and broader development issues such as education, gender inequity and poverty. To mark World Water Day 2009, our agency teamed with our client Population Services International (PSI) to develop an online video series that mobilised broad, grassroots support in the U.S. for better access to clean water in developing countries. With limited budget, we needed to develop a creative, cost-effective approach. We teamed with a multi-media group to develop a video concept that took traditional public services messages to a new level to surprise and engage viewers. The series used iconic film images to raise public attention to the grave health risks that people with limited access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation face in developing countries. Each video included a message that encouraged viewers to visit to learn more about the global water crisis and find ways to help. Within the first ten days of its launch, the series had more than one million viewers.

The Goal
The main goal of the initiative was to create an online video series with edgy content and a compelling call to action around World Water Day that would: • Issue a clear call to action to cut in half the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation • Highlight key messages about water-related diseases • Underscore broad support for these solutions among leading players in global health


Within the first 10 days of launch, total video views exceeded 1 million. Outreach efforts to YouTube proved effective - the Transparency video was featured as a homepage exclusive and generated over 600,000 views in the first three days. Psycho was YouTube’s most viewed video in its Nonprofits & Activism category during March. The promotion generated strong blog coverage as well as an op-ed placement on The Huffington Post authored by PSI’s President. Most importantly, the videos have been successful in reaching the target audience with powerful messages - effectively hitting a nerve as evidenced by insightful viewer feedback: • "Wow, I did not know, thanks so much! It’s horrible…but thanks for the tips at the last part of video" • "All these new videos in one day. Great cause! Great work!" • "Wow, that's effective." • "This is really great…really it's just a good message to send out!"

To generate buzz in the days leading up to World Water Day, we executed a phased roll-out strategy. Prior to launch, we provided a sneak peak to content editors at YouTube to generate interest in a homepage exclusive. The first of the four videos launched Friday morning before World Water Day on PSI partner sites, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, MTVThink and Twitter. We simultaneously issued a press release and executed a coordinated media relations outreach effort targeting top news outlets and bloggers to drive awareness and generate anticipation of the soon-to-be-released videos. The remaining videos launched at noon on Friday and Saturday respectively, and the transparency video was released on Sunday morning culminating the effort and marking World Water Day.

The Situation
Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. Yet, few Americans know the toll that a lack of access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation takes on people in developing countries. PSI sought to leverage World Water Day to highlight the problem of access to safe drinking water and the impact it has on children in poor countries with cutting edge content and innovative use of digital communications. What is unique about this effort is its effective, out-of-the-box approach to issue education.

The Strategy
Since our budget did not enable new footage to be shot, we leveraged clips from popular films and television shows, including Cool Hand Luke, Psycho and Crocodile Mile. Our multi-media partner used these clips to produce three videos that translate the international water crisis into popular cultural terms that resonated with viewers. In one video, kids slide down the chute of the popular children’s toy, Crocodile Mile, only to splash into a big pool of sludgy, contaminated water. In addition to the video series, we worked with our multi-media partner to produce a video from GOOD’s award-winning transparency series. This water 'transparency' presents startling facts about the world water crisis through attention-grabbing animation, such as that 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related infections and illness.