Mark DiMassimo, creative director of marketing shop DiMassimo Goldstein, and Eric Yaverbaum, president of public relations agency Ericho Communications, are planning to deliver 1 million used water bottles stuffed with messages to Mr. Kent as part of an awareness campaign they call Tappening. The campaign aims to encourage consumption of tap water, as well as get consumers to buy reusable bottles emblazoned with messages including "Think Global. Drink Local."
"We are bringing our marketing experience to bear, and therefore, people are viewing us differently," said Mr. DiMassimo, who is a former executive at ad agencies JWT and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners. "This is a public-education initiative dressed up as a brand to change the context in which Coke does business in."
10,000 bottles collected
So far, about 10,000 bottles have been collected, Mr. DiMassimo said, adding that because of storage issues, the bottles will be delivered piecemeal to Mr. Kent. At this point, no plans are in place to target PepsiCo or Nestle.
"They're all worthy targets but Coke is the biggest, and one thing you learn is you start big," he said. "They've responded right away and said they will happily recycle the bottles. But recycling also uses fossil fuels and burns energy and is wasteful, when you don't need to recycle."
Coca-Cola did not return calls for comment.
Tappening is already garnering plenty of attention. It was recently named as a hot item for 2008 by trendwatcher Jane Buckingham on ABC's "Good Morning America." Some 39,000 stainless steel and resusable bottles imprinted with the logo "What's Tappening?" were sold within a few days of the campaign's November launch, Mr. DiMassimo said. Those 39,000 bottles, sold via the tappening.com website, he added, were intended to last one year.
"We're surprised by how quickly the demand showed up," he said. "Our whole goal is to create a self-funding campaign, building a brand for tap water."
Making tap water profitable
And, in that spirit, it's not just about the bottle. Tappening is exploring ways to help restaurants and delis make tap water profitable and is looking at several proposals for "non-disgusting" water fountains, Mr. DiMassimo said.
Tappening is the most recent in a string of anti-bottled water initiatives. Several city governments, including San Francisco and New York, have begun encouraging residents to drink tap water. And, in 2006, David Droga, the creative chairman of Droga5, created a campaign to promote the Tap Project, which encouraged tap-water drinking among New Yorkers eating out at restaurants during World Water Day.