More than 4000 children die every day from diseases caused by unsafe drinking water. Worldwide, approximately 780 million people lack access to clean water, and yet many people are unaware of the scale of this crisis.
UNICEF wanted to change that. In 2009, they partnered with Latinx ad agency Casanova Pendrill/McCann to create a guerrilla marketing stunt that garnered global media attention: Dirty Water vending machines.
Vending machines placed in New York’s Union Square offered a selection of eight water “flavors:” cholera, malaria, typhoid, dysentery, dengue, hepatitis, salmonella and yellow fever (all diseases that plague communities without clean drinking water). For a $1 donation to UNICEF’s cause, New Yorkers received a nasty bottle of brown water with unidentifiable particles floating in it, as well as some important facts about the water crisis. Their $1 donation, they were informed, could provide a child with clean drinking water for 40 days.
The campaign reached about 7,500 people in New York, and millions more through media coverage of the event.
Why we love it
Many communications about clean water efforts show rural villagers gathering water from streams or ponds, not something most Americans do daily. By putting the unsafe water in branded plastic bottles, UNICEF made it more relatable to New Yorkers. Now they could imagine drinking it—and it wasn’t a pleasant thought.
We also love that the vending machine was not only a clever vehicle for the message, it was a natural way to get donations. For those with no singles on hand, other methods of donation were offered (by text or online). And to hammer home the message, statistics about the water crisis were printed on the front of the machines.
Shocking, educating, fundraising – now that’s one hardworking vending machine.
This is post #2 in our blog series: 10 Examples of Wildly Creative Guerrilla Marketing.