My favourite ad campaign of all time: Droga5’s ‘The Tap Project’ of 2007

The admirable work around access to safe and clean drinking water helped to ignite trends like ‘Pay it Forward’ and shifted the industry’s focus to creating acts, not just ads, says Melanie Clancy

I am always drawn to amazing ‘what if?’ questions that ideas spring from.

What if a bike could show us what it’s like to live with MS?

What if people living with 31 days of darkness could get a taste of sunlight?

What if a vending machine could break down barriers between two nations?

My favourite ‘what if?’ question goes back to 2007. During that time, almost 90 million people worldwide did not have access to safe and clean drinking water.

To tackle this challenge, Droga5 posed a powerful question: ‘What if every glass of water you drank quenched someone else’s thirst?’ Once the question is asked, the campaign almost writes itself.

The Tap Project hijacks tap water served in restaurants to raise money and increase access to safe water around the world.

The mechanics were clear: when you take water, give water.  Restaurant diners in New York City were asked to donate $1 for tap water, something they would normally drink for free. For every dollar raised, a child in need received 40 days of clean drinking water.

The project transformed tap water into a brand – something of value. Involvement from restaurants, celebrity chefs and the media gave the project huge scale, both on-ground and online.

Tongue-in-cheek ads juxtaposed unsavory people ‘purging’ their personal yuck-factor with the fact that they are bringing clean water to children around the world. And in its first year alone, only in New York, Unicef estimates The Tap Project raised $6 million.

With every year, the programme evolved. They asked followers to sacrifice time on their phone to provide clean water for someone in need for a day.

They enabled Facebook users to turn into ‘taps’ and their networks into ‘pipes’ carrying clean drinking water – transforming the world’s largest social network into a water network.

They even tapped into our obsession with celebrities by taking ‘famous’ water from the taps of celebrities and giving non-famous people a chance to win it.

The project sets itself apart from most charity campaigns because it makes making a difference simple, easy and social. It helped to ignite trends like ‘Pay it Forward’ and shifted the industry’s focus to creating acts, not just ads – all while asking the right questions along the way. Cheers to that.

Droga5 changed the direction of the industry with the ad, says Clancy

Melanie Clancy is executive creative director for Singapore and Australia at Zeno Group


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