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Ed Zazzera
Sam Shepherd, art director
Frank Cartagena, writer
Juan Carlos Pagan, graphic designer
Menno Kluin, executive creative director
Matt Eastwood, chief creative officer
Lindsey Hutter, producer
Alec Helm/Melanie Meditz, editors
DDB New York, project design and development
WATERisLIFE, client

Launch Site

“By making fun of a certain Twitter hashtag, this entry shows that even a vain and silly tweet can be turned into a powerful message by flipping it on its head.” —juror Sophie Henry

“A smart idea that turned a negative social trend around.”—juror Perry Fair

Overview: This campaign for WATERisLIFE set out, for the first time, to end a hashtag rather than promote it. With the goal of reverse-trending the ironic #firstworldproblems meme and raising awareness about serious developing world issues, it directed people to WATERisLIFE.com. For the campaign's anthem commercial, “first world problem” tweets were gathered and people in Haiti were approached to recite them. Most effective, however, was the campaign’s series of personalized responses, in which various Haitians “consoled” people who had used the hashtag on Twitter. And it was successful. During the weeks following the campaign launch, instead of complaining about them, people were commenting on being grateful for what we have—and soliciting donations.

From start to finish, the project (which consisted of ten personalized videos and one anthem commercial) took a team of eleven four months to complete.
The anthem video, the most viral aspect of the campaign, reached 1 million views in just 4 days and has received over 2.5 million cumulative views. But beyond that, the idea actually worked; within the weeks following launch, the #FirstWorldProblems Twitter feed had been completely hijacked by people encouraging others to donate.

Comments by Frank Cartagena:
How did this project compare with others you've worked on in the past? “This was a more personal project for us because when we weren’t shooting, we were helping dig wells in villages. We met a lot of people who, despite their situations, were genuinely happy. It made it that much more important to show the juxtaposition between their lives and ours.”

What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “The emotional toll the project took on all of us was probably the most challenging. Despite the lack of running water and shooting in over-100-degree weather, we were constantly surrounded by reminders of how backward this world can be: Kids were starving, dying of thirst and their houses were crumbling but after the five-day shoot, we went back to our privileged lives while all of the great people we met there are still suffering.”

Did you meet with any out-of-the-ordinary obstacles during development? “Shooting in Haiti isn’t a normal production experience. There are only two hours of power every day, so all equipment had to be battery-operated. We slept in an orphanage three nights and camped out the other two, due to lack of infrastructure in the area. In addition, there was also the unsettling factor that we had thousands of dollars worth of equipment in an area where the average person lives on just one dollar a day.”


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