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  • Writer's pictureAndy Powell

Learning from the bottom half of the internet

Funny things can happen to you in forty-degree heat.

I was standing in the middle of a dried-up river bed in Burkina Faso, as you do, when I remembered a common question that my WaterAid client gets asked all the time. They get it as a comment on every social post, at their annual supporters’ day, regularly on the phone.

“Why don’t the children in your ads live closer to the water supply?”

So, I asked some of the villagers. They lived just up the hill from where I was standing, and they told me how different things are between the rainy and dry seasons. When it rains, it really rains. The river roars along and is highly dangerous. And they need to be safely above the flood plain.

But, steadily, the water level drops. Every day it gets harder to find any water at all. First the river runs dry. Then the riverbed. And steadily, the village have to dig holes deeper and deeper into the ground. Until, as we saw, they can be as deep as twenty feet – and unbelievably dangerous to stand too close to.

And that was my lightbulb moment for our latest WaterAid DRTV ad – River Ran Dry. It tells the story of Wenbe, collecting water on a searingly-hot day deep into the dry season.

Keeping an eye and an ear open to what real people think and say helped me find a new way to tell the story, even after nearly ten years working on the account. That’s why I always recommend reading the bottom half of the internet, and thinking about how it can help you.

Useful nuggets can be scattered in all sorts of interesting places, if you scour the web. Like a mumsnet thread that helped us see whether our creative strategy had landed right for a UNISON campaign celebrating the unsung heroes of public service. It was made even better by the original poster questioning if the campaign was belittling those on the front-line.

And a recurring theme on the ShelterBox Book Club discussion forum that saw new members being uncertain as to when the next book shortlist was due to be voted on. The simple addition of a countdown clock on the Book Club website helped give people that information when they wanted it most.

So how can the bottom half of the internet help you? In amongst the bile, the BS and the bland could be your next brilliant insight.


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