Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

UNICEF sold dirty water in the busy streets of New York City. Would you buy a bottle, too? [Gorillas of Guerilla Marketing]

February 21, 2020

Vending machines are designed to provide convenient access to snacks, drinks, or other products. They are usually located in very busy places where lots of people pass by. Considering the rush of people in cities, many people depend on them.

However, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) turned these “normal” vending machines to something very different last 2009.

Malaria, cholera, typhoid, dengue, hepatitis, dysentery, salmonella, and yellow fever⁠—these eight dirty and dangerous water “flavors” were sold by UNICEF through a vending machine in the busy streets of New York City.


BUT this campaign grabbed the attention of about 7,500 people and attracted worldwide media coverage.

The crisis on clean water is not something that’s usually experienced in highly developed countries or cities like New York, unlike in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Honduras, etc.

This campaign was an effort to educate people in this fast-paced city about the fact that:

“Every day, 3,000 children die of diarrheal disease caused by consuming unsafe water. And about 783 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water.”

What did UNICEF do?

They partnered with Casanova Pendrill/McCann, a Hispanic advertising agency, to bring awareness on the clean water crisis to the busy streets of New York City.

The aim of their campaign was to create a buzz, increase awareness about the water crisis, and raise USD 1 million for donations.

They also targeted Latino people in New York City because based on their research, Hispanics are most likely to give to charities they are familiar with.

“We had to shock people into action.” – Casanova Pendrill/McCann

THE BIG IDEA: UNICEF placed vending machines that offered eight dirty and dangerous types of water in the streets of Manhattan, New York.

People were curious and wanted to see what the water looked like. In order to get a bottle, they needed to pay $1 to have the machine dispense it. All profit went to charity, of course.

$1 would provide one child with clean drinking water for 40 days.

For the people who didn’t have cash on hand, they were able to donate via SMS or online.

Aside from that, they also had captivating and informative text on the vending machines:

“Thirsty? So are millions of people around the world with no access to clean drinking water. 4,200 children die of water-related diseases everyday. Help provide safe drinking water to developing countries. Donate today. You wouldn’t drink dirty water. No one should. Donate now by texting TAP to 864233 (UNICEF) or visit tapproject.org.”

“Just a dollar provides a child with 40 days of clean drinking water”

Since this project in 2009, along with other succeeding projects from UNICEF’s TAP campaign, they were able to contribute to the decrease in the world’s casualties from water-related diseases, which dropped from over 4,000 a day to just under 1,000 a day by 2015.

This Dirty Water Campaign is an excellent example of how efficient and effective Guerrilla Marketing can be. It was a buzz-worthy, attention-grabbing, unconventional strategy that really got their message and goal across.

This campaign increased awareness on the water problem that the rest of the world is facing. The donations were above their expectations, and it resulted in helping a lot of children around the world.

Kudos to the creative folks of Casanova Pendrill/McCann and UNICEF!

Are you also willing to donate $1 for a bottle of UNCIEF’s dirty water?

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Fridays: Gorillas of Guerilla Marketing”

Jay Conrad Levinson (1984) said that Guerilla Marketing “works because it’s simple to appreciate, easy to execute, and inexpensive.”

Guerilla Marketing is unconventional.

Looking beyond the traditional ways of advertising, marketers and advertisers need to spice things up in order for their brand to have campaigns that not only make an impact but also stick to their target market’s mind.

Guerilla Marketing usually aims to have direct contact with consumers.

This type of direct contact should spark an emotional reaction that leads to consumers effectively remembering the brand.

It’s making a big impression and making that impression last a long time (if not forever).

Guerilla Marketing is inexpensive.

The effect of this is being able to create a buzz around the brand, and the strategy used to market it. Almost everything is passed around through word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is one of the greatest outcomes and it usually doesn’t cost anything.

This is every business or brand’s dream!

Every Friday, we publish tips, examples, and other useful content on unconventional ways of marketing and promotion.

Learn more about how to grab your target market’s attention and make an amazing first and lasting impression without having to spend a lot of money.

Businesses don’t really need to spend much for a guerilla campaign. You don’t need a big budget to be successful. You just need creativity and a good imagination.

Hope you’ve found this week’s guerilla marketing insight interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Friday’s Gorillas of Guerilla!


Kyle Yu and Joel Litman
Head of Marketing & President and CEO
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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This content is used with permission from The I Institute and The Business Builder Daily.

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