Shock Top Beer Pours Out Water-Saving Campaign in California

Toilet Invention, Buzzfeed Partnership Part of New 'Shock the Drought' Effort

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Shock Top beer is going down the toilet as part of a new cause-marketing campaign in drought-stricken California. The effort, called "Shock the Drought," includes branded digital advertising urging water conservation, as well as donations to inventors developing water-saving inventions.

Shock Top campaign
Shock Top campaign

The first project involves an innovation called "Drop-A-Brick 2.0," which is a modern take on the old tactic of putting a brick in a toilet tank to save water. The contemporary version is made from rubber and improves flushing performance, saving an estimated 50 gallons of water per week, according to Shock Top, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

The brand is donating $100,000 to Drop-A-Brick, allowing the inventors to automate manufacturing of the bricks, which are presently made by hand, said Ian Montgomery, co-founder of Drop-A-Brick. He recently worked with San Francisco-based agency BarrettSF to create an awareness campaign. "We want to get as many free bricks out into the community as we can," Mr. Montgomery said.

Shock Top plans to identify and help fund other water-saving inventions each month through the end of the year via a partnership with crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. Other organizations involved with the campaign include water news site Water Deeply; a statewide education program called Save Our Water; and the Solano County Water Agency.

The campaign will include paid digital and out-of-home ads. That includes sponsored content on BuzzFeed. For instance, a post might include a list of things to do to save water, using BuzzFeed's typically lighthearted tone.

Shock Top Water Tips
Shock Top Water Tips

The campaign "centers around the idea that there are easier ways … to save water," said Jake Kirsch, VP of Shock Top. A website called includes water saving tips like "if you accidentially drop ice cubes, put them in a house plant." The agency for the paid ads (including video above) is Argonaut of San Francisco.

Shock Top has an interest in the topic because 95% of its flagship Belgian White beer consumed in California is made in the state at A-B InBev breweries in Los Angeles and Fairfield. Also, Golden State drinkers consume one out of every four Shock Tops sold, Mr. Kirsch said, so the state is a priority for the brand.

To make one ounce of beer from start to finish takes one gallon of water, according to A-B InBev. That includes agricultural activities -- such as growing hops and barley -- which come from out of state. By comparison, wine uses two gallons of water and orange juice uses three gallons, according to the brewer.

A-B InBev's production facilities have not been subject to any state-mandated water cutbacks, according to the brewer. But the company has been working to reduce water use for years. In 2014, the L.A. brewery cut water use by 9% and the Fairfield facility reduced water use by 6.7%, and both breweries are on track to reach an additional 5% reduction by the end of 2015, according to A-B InBev.

MillerCoors, which also makes beer in California, reduced water use at its Irwindale brewery by 5.7% last year, following an 11.3% reduction in 2013, according to the brewer. MillerCoors is touting the reductions as part of a new consumer-facing corporate branding campaign called "We Stand for Beer" that targets cities where it has breweries.

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