The Economist challenges consumers to drink 'sewage coffee' to highlight water shortages

The Economist: raising awareness of water shortage issues
The Economist: raising awareness of water shortage issues

The Economist is challenging Londoners over the summer to consider whether they would drink coffee made with water derived from their own, or others' urine.

The activation, devised by agency Sense, and which launched in Green Park yesterday (16 May), is the latest from the business title's Discomfort Food campaign, which has been running over the past 12 months.

Entitled H#2O, this latest campaign consists of a specially designed and branded manned coffee trike offering free beverages to passers by. On closer inspection, consumers claiming their free drink notice the adjacent portaloo, which appears to be supplying water for the coffees.

Trained brand representatives then inform the interested parties that trials are taking place in selected countries to overcome clean water scarcity through purifying urine. The question is: will they still drink the free coffee? 

Daniel Hennessey, account manager at Sense, said: "Once their reaction has been gauged, consumers are told that in this instance, urine is not being used as a water source for the coffee, the activation is simply highlighting a solution. The aim is to 'flush out' potential Economist readers through their interest in the campaign subject and offer them discounted subscriptions, essentially filtering out the hottest prospects."

Marina Hadyn, senior vice president, circulation and retail marketing at The Economist, said: "We're delivering an illustrative real world experience on the technology sitting behind water purification for water-scarce locations, based on Economist content. By bringing our content to life, we are able to raise brand awareness and readership, while delivering an Economist experience that highlights some unexpected features of our brand and product – with the ability to surprise."

H#2O moves to Canary Wharf tomorrow (18 May) before touring the UK capital’s business hubs over the summer. In its various forms over the past 12 months the Discomfort Food strategy has generated in excess of 14,500 subscribers.

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