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26 August 21

How stand-up comedy in a local chalk stream and a gigantic touring bathtub nicknamed “Tubatha” created a water saving movement

Save Our Streams team standing in front of the Save Our Streams sign

(From left: Jane Bellard, SOS Project Lead, Miranda Rennie, marketing consultant SOS, Harriet Bailiss, business lead the Revolt Agency, and Andrew Harrison, Director of Hopper Events.)

When in the middle of the #Covid19 Pandemic Affinity Water teamed up with a number of creative agencies to reduce water usage in its three regions they were unsure of how their 3.6 million customers across the South East of England would react to it.

Now the #SOS Save Our Streams campaign is a beacon for others wanting to reach the public to tell them to "waste less water". In this EXCLUSIVE Podcast we got together for the first time the brains behind it to tell us how they did it. All with just a six-week lead in time. You can listen to it here.  In just five months 135,000 people have signed up to Over 50 per cent of Affinity Water’s customers have seen the campaign and are changing their behaviours as a result. With over 3 million litres of water being saved each day already.

Interest in this #SOS campaign and Affinity Water's undoubted success is growing.

Here Jane Bellard, SOS Project Lead, Miranda Rennie, marketing consultant SOS, Harriet Bailiss, business lead the Revolt Agency, and Andrew Harrison, Director of Hopper Events, recount how they did it.

As a headline act for the launch event they signed up comedian Sandy Toksvig to stand in the River Chess below a neon lit "Save Our Streams" backdrop. But, as they will tell you, it was Affinity Water's CEO, Pauline Walsh who gave them the brief to "be brave" and capture the headlines.

Be warned when you are moving a giant bathtub, nicknamed “Tubatha” 125 times the size of a normal bath from town to town across the Affinity Water region you need to plan. Painstaking research was under-taken to ensure it would get under bridges as it went along!

Never-the-less they did manage to persuade local councillors, MPs, and opinion formers to climb inside “Tubatha” and create a visual image that made good copy for the local press to report as the

events unfolded. Catchy funny ads, written by David Schneider, played on commercial radio stations in the region.

The comedy performances are now still on @AffinityWater twitter account and social media channels.

As Jane told us: “We have created a movement and we still have thousands of people signing up every week. I’ll never forget when a duck waddled past Sandy Toksvig, mid-set, standing in waders in a stream and totally stole her limelight and punchline.

“I remember less than six months ago briefing the agencies and saying in six weeks we have to launch a campaign bigger than anybody has seen before and achieve things that have never been done before. We had a name and an insight that was all! They knocked it out of the park. The team we have had working on it have been phenomenal.

“Affinity Water gave us all real rope here to come up with something that would be really original and so different from its previous work. It has been greatly received so you will see more work from us in the future like this as well. We have created a movement.”

Miranda recalled: “One of the most important things about asking people to think about their water waste, was to give them a reason why. Water is incredibly cheap. So it really needed to be the ‘why’, we focused on. Save Our Streams became the ‘why’ and the important message. It becomes a purposeful ‘why’; the water needs to stay in your streams.

“Following the #Covid19 lockdowns our local environment has become much more obvious to us. Leaving your tap running is water that could stay in your streams. Waste less water, Save Our Streams.”

Miranda continued: “The tactical element of the #SOS plan is all about devices, it is all about giving them devices to fit into their homes. The questions they have answered on the #SOS platform will allow us to send them something that can half their usage. It is making small changes but if we all do it then that becomes a big change for the environment.”

Harriett explained: “Pulling ducks around in a bucolic sunlit stream for the photographer was memorable. Water waste is a low interest issue on the environmental agenda it’s not like plastic. It’s taken for granted.

“The holy grail of marketing is behavioural change. We thought it might be a much slower burn than it has been. Local is a huge part of it, and people are much more aware of the local environs where they live now following the #Covid19 lockdowns. All these things being local and using humour were

important elements. We didn’t want it to be a traditional environmentalist campaign, we thought it can’t look like a traditional campaign. It looks silly, the bath, the ads were cheeky; it was not a traditional green ad. It was shock, a completely bizarre key image. But the recall has been significant – it is about 50 per cent recognition which is rare.”

Andy said: “Visualisation of the challenges was really important. Taking the call-to-action campaign that the Affinity Water team had created and stopping people in their tracks and making them think was crucial. That was one of the event themes, and the giant bathtub “Tubatha” toured round and allowed us to engage customers and talk to them directly in local shopping centres.

“Pier Marketing had the big bang idea of a comedy act in a stream and communicating in humour and doing it in a live stream. We wanted to make it look like a comedy gig so a “Live at the Apollo” like screen. Someone called it a “toaster in a bathtub”, but I can assure you it was fully risk assessed.”

Andy recalled his scary moments: “A lot of design work had to be done to make sure we could get the bathtub to all the locations. We went with a tape measure to make sure we could navigate the low bridges and things like that. Just before the comedy gig it rained. The stand up for our streams event, the location was beautiful, but on the actual day the heavens opened, and people had to stride through a lot of mud. Sandy loved it and got her waders on and it was a fun evening. It all added to the vibe and us being a brave brand and getting out there.”

Harriet said being a brave brand on the environment was important: “The word brave came up a lot in the briefings and not wanting to be like a water company. The humour and the strong environmental message and helping people to make change in their lives through offering customers who signed up free water saving devices was important and I think it will stay with people. It was not judgemental.”

Andy emphasised: “We had to think ‘if I saw this giant bathtub on the street why would I stop and change my behaviour’? This all came about because of the initial creative concept.”

Miranda explained: “It was Pauline Walsh, the CEO of Affinity Water who said we have got to be brave. It was her words. All of us on the campaign team came from branding not the water industry, and we thought this needed to be a great brand campaign, giving people a reason why they should save water and doing that in a gentle amusing way. This isn’t a revolution; you can do something every day that can help your local environment.”

Jane finished by saying: “We have a lot of very exciting things coming up with schools as well. We have all got lots of more fun things to do and we are planning to take it bigger. We have lots of

people signed up to our programme, but next year we need to make sure we can make further changes in their water saving behaviours.”

Miranda pointed out: “This is the first time we have all met, we have spoken on the phone, this whole campaign has been conceived on dodgy networks WFH - not around a table together. And we did it.” Members of the public are urged to take action now and visit where, after answering a few questions about how they use water, they can gain access to their exact household’s water-use stats, a free water-saving kit plus free leak repairs and tailored advice via video calls.

NB: Our photograph shows: Jane, Harriet, Miranda and Andy by the Save Our Streams neon screen.

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