The Economist challenges consumers to drink coffee made from sewage

Latest real world campaign engages potential subscribers through an innovative solution to the global clear water shortage.

Would consumers drink coffee made with water derived from their own – or others’ – urine? This is the question that The Economist is putting to Londoners over the summer in the latest edition of its multi-award-winning Discomfort Food campaign, which to date has proved highly effective at growing the renowned business title’s subscriber base.

Entitled H#2O, the real-world activation consists of a specially designed 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. Carefully selected and 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?

“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,” explains Daniel Hennessey, account manager at real world marketing agency Sense, which is running the campaign for The Economist. “The aim is to flush out – excuse the pun – potential Economist readers through their interest in the campaign subject and offer them discounted subscriptions, essentially filtering out the hottest prospects.”

In its various forms over the past 12 months this Discomfort Food strategy has generated in excess of 14,500 subscribers. Commenting on the latest campaign, 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.”

Launching on 16 May at Green Park, H#2O moves to Canary Wharf on 18 May before touring the UK capital’s business hubs over the summer.


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