This summer, advocates in California tried to make dirty unwashed cars cool. One city cancelled a kid-friendly Slip-n-Slide festival since it used too much water. And many local districts enacted no pool rules.
As California continues to battle with a statewide drought, the Omelet agency has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the state’s ongoing dry spell and to change behavior around water use.
The Los Angeles-based branding, marketing and entertainment company, along with partners landscaping firm Mia Lehrer + Associates and activist group DIGDEEP, are introducing #H2No — a campaign that supports LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent challenge to reduce water usage in the city by 20% by 2017, as well as Proposition 1 on the Nov. 4 California ballot which would authorize the state to raise $7.12 billion in bonds to benefit state water supply infrastructure projects.
The advocacy campaign is active online and offline. Virtually, residents can visit www.joinh2no.com for more information on the drought, access to exclusive educational materials, and receive talking points to discuss the matter with neighbors. People can also follow @joinH2No on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily updates.
Offline, the agency has identified a few hundred brown and drought-resistant lawns all over Los Angeles and will be giving them a shout-out with campaign signage. These signs are intended to identify and celebrate brown lawns and drought-resistant landscaping.
If residents also want to request their own signs, they are encouraged to email Omelet through a direct email button at the top of joinh2no.com. In total, the agency has produced 1,000 signs and "if this takes off the way we anticipate, we’ll definitely be making more," says Alex Delyle, Omelet's senior copywriter.
"We wanted to make H2No feel personal while also creating a very tangible badge of honor for supporters," says Delyle. "Our hope is that the lawn signs will start conversations between neighbors, and compel people who are still overwatering their lawns to modify their behavior. This is a completely grassroots campaign, so we haven't purchased any media to support it."
Still, it was a key challenge to develop a message that balances education with levity. "We're actually trying to blend humor and gravity into all our work," says Delyle. "As marketers we want to engage and entertain, but also this drought is a serious, life-threatening issue, and we can't lose sight of that. It's definitely a tricky line to toe, but we're cautiously optimistic. Our Web site and print materials are meant to be neighborly, colloquial — things you don't feel icky reading and you might even like them. As for celebrities, we'd love to have them on board. Paging Beyonce!"
This is the first advocacy campaign Omelet has created with Southern California as its client. And it started through a personal frustration. One employee was witnessing daily water waste as her neighbors continued to excessively water their lawns and hose down sidewalks. She searched the Internet for an informational flyer to distribute to her neighbors to help educate them. When that didn't pan out, she then drafted an angry, anonymous letter to leave on neighbors' cars.
Ultimately, she had an epiphany: “Wait. I work for a creative company. Why don't I rally my friends and coworkers to do this the right way?” She then brought her drought concerns back to the agency and as it turns out, this is an issue that many of them were already revved up about.
"It was so impactful to see just how many people at Omelet care about this issue," says Sarah Ceglarski, Omelet's senior director, marketing. "We leveraged our collective passion to get H2No off the ground quickly, working as a small SWAT team of employees across departments to make swift decisions and approvals. This was truly the first time we got to act as our own client, and with that comes challenges but mostly a great deal of upside for the cause."
While the current campaign focuses on the upcoming election, Omelet executives say this will be an ongoing effort at the agency.