#FirstWorldProblems Become a Clean Water PSA

The Haitian charity "Water Is Life" has co-opted ironic #FirstWorldProblems tweets into a public service announcement for clean water. In the video, Haitians read the tweets, which are shown as captions. On the charity's website, Water Is Life, one of the photo captions reads, "Donate to help solve real problems."

The campaign is the work of ad agency DDB New York, which has been both applauded and criticized for the messaging. Business Insider posted an article, "Poor Haitians Reading #FirstWorldProblems Tweets Might Be The Best Ad Of The Year," calling the effect "both funny and moving."

Critics of the campaign accused DDB of misunderstanding the irony of the tweets: #FirstWorldProblems aren't problems at all-that's the point. But Matt Eastwood, who led the campaign, told Business Insider, "We totally understand the irony of it. People are doing it as a joke. It leads to a desensitization around the issue." He also said, "We knew we were going to upset a few people. People in Haiti don't have the luxuries these guys do."

In a press release, the agency described its mission:

 "DDB New York announced today that it is attempting to eliminate the #FirstWorldProblems hashtag on Twitter – the first mission to wipe out, instead of promote, a trending hashtag. #FirstWorldProblems showcases concerns that seem important to those living in wealthy, industrialized countries, yet are, in fact, trivial compared to the issues faced by those struggling to survive in many parts of the world. Though meant in jest, these tweets about "problems"-such as having to get up to change the TV channel or a phone charger that won't reach the bed - also reveal a lack of sensitivity or awareness about serious social and health concerns and the ways that social media users can help alleviate real problems."

AdWeek sums up the issue well: "Harnessing a spoof hashtag in PSAs to drum up press coverage, popular support, and donations-how first world can you get?"
Discussion Starters:
  • What's your opinion of the video: funny, moving, insensitive, or something else?
  • Do you think the ad will be effective is encouraging people to donate to Water Is Life?