By: Jenna Finer

Unlike many brands, non-profit organzations can have hard time grabbing the attention or recognition from an audience. Without a celebrity partnership or big-name donation people often don’t even hear about major campaigns. So how did WATERislife, a small charity group whose goal is to provide clean water to communities in poverty, get 1.7 million YouTube views on a 60-second video in under a month? By making everybody who watched feel like a terrible, terrible person.

In Fall 2012, WATERislife started a campaign that utilized the popular social media hashtag #FirstWorldProblems. The hashtag prefaces ‘tweets’ or posts that state exactly that; problems that society of the first world encounters. Misplaced phone chargers, not finding a favored guacamole dip at the grocery store… you get the idea. WATERislife decided to tweak the hashtag and expose the denial that all first world inhabitants face; we are extremely lucky and are extremely unappreciative. WATERislife filmed children in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, reading #FirstWorldProblems tweets.

Written words have an entirely different meaning until spoken, and this campaign is a perfect representation of that. The video became a viral sensation for obvious reasons. WATERislife was a small group with a strong mission, making a big statement to a weak audience in denial. The purpose of the campaign was to raise funds to promote awareness about the dangers of unsafe drinking water, which kills nearly 6,500 a day. According to UNICEFF, The United Nation’s Children’s Fund, the lack of clean water is the world’s single largest cause of illness.

WATERislife’s ironic way of abolishing #FirstWorldProblems is what makes the campaign a social win. They used social media creatively; in most platforms, companies mass share their message or brand across Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. WATERislife didn’t talk about their message or brand at all, and instead pulled from previously posted tweets on Twitter. The charity’s message spoke for itself with the contrast of the words against the images shown. Another factor that made the video so powerful was how personal it was. Because the tweets were from real, randomly selected accounts, people were anonymously targeted. It’s certain that the individuals behind the accounts definitely felt guilty. “First World Problems Anthem” on Youtube has over 6 million views, the first million of which were obtained in under one month. The “donate now” button underneath the video was strategically placed because after watching it people felt bad and wanted to do something. Although it was an undisclosed amount, WATERislife’s profits from the campaign provided one million days worth of clean water to those in need.

Personally, I don’t think that this campaign needed much improvement. WATERislife successfully got a message across in a subtle yet very impactful way. As a charity organization, their goal wasn’t solely to raise money but more-so awareness about the severity of how dangerous and widespread a lack of clean water is. More importantly, I believe that this campaign put life into perspective for those who take it for granted.


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  • Hrabik, L. (2013, November 15). The Top 4 Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 (And What You Can Learn). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from
  • Kneezie, S. (2012, October 10). #FirstWorldProblems, as Read by Poverty-Stricken Haitians | Retrieved February 9, 2015, from
  • Payne, E. (2013, October 23). Viral ad campaign hits #FirstWorldProblems – Retrieved February 9, 2015, from