London December 14 2010 – Like the proverbial turkey voting for Christmas, an Italian supermarket has launched a new advertising campaign urging customers to think carefully before buying its bottled water.
Seem a little surprising? Well, (no pun intended) a quick look at the numbers makes it even more surprising. Italians drink more bottled water than anyone else on the planet, glugging down a whopping 55 gallons each a year, according to PRI’s The World.
Coop, the supermarket behind the campaign, is by no means a minnow in the hunt for Italian shopping dollars either. It boasts a 20 per cent market share in Italy, and stands to lose 140m US Dollars as a result of the campaign, says PRI’s The World.
The campaign itself focuses on the harm done to the environment by bottled water. An advert running on national TV shows a well-known Italian comedienne filling up a glass of water at a babbling brook.
In a sardonic twist, she carries it home, coughing and spluttering her way through traffic, and putting her hand over the glass to protect the water from exhaust fumes, before getting home to run a fresh glass from the tap.
The message is clear: bottled water pollutes the planet, tap water doesn’t.
But here’s the rub. Coop isn’t running the campaign solely out of its desire to save the planet. Along with the ad, maps have been placed in store showing how far each brand of bottled water has travelled to reach the store, in the hope that consumers will buy water from the nearest source and give the own-label brand a sales boost.
One person who isn’t surprised by the campaign however is Agneta Sjödin, marketing director for the T6, a mains fed water dispenser which combines a rapid-boil kettle with a water cooler, and delivers an instant supply triple-filtered boiling and chilled water at the touch of a button.
She said: “Consumers across Europe are recognising not only the environmental cost of bottled water – drawing it from the ground, bottling it, transporting it, marketing and selling it and the millions of bottles which never get recycled – but also the ludicrous cost of the product itself.
“In the UK, a litre of tap water costs less than one penny, while the average price for a litre of water is 73p. In other words, consumers are being conned into spending their hard earned cash on something that is virtually free.
“In the age of austerity, they are beginning to see this folly, while at the same time, concern for the environment is on an upward spiral. As a consequence, more and more people are turning their backs on bottled water and to products like the T6.
“In light of this, the Italian supermarket campaign comes as no surprise at all to me. What I find surprising is that there aren’t more supermarkets trying to soft soap their customers in this way.”
Needless to say the bottled water companies aren’t happy. They’ve gone on the offensive and reminded the Coop that the bottled water industry employs 40,000 people in Italy. If that sounds familiar it should. It is the same argument that the Victorian mine owners adopted to defend the use of children for slave labour.
Author Crispin Slee: firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7183 6854 or 07540 059985