Haitians are the spokespeople for a new ad campaign getting lots of YouTube hits this month.
The video features Haitians reading tweets from the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems as they stand by the rubble of their former homes and neighborhoods.
The ad campaign is from the organization Water is Life, a non-profit group that works to provide clean water for those in need.
The #FirstWorldProblems hashtag began in June 2009 and has since become a popular meme for first world citizens to post their seemingly mundane complaints, such as “I want to enjoy my beer in the garden but the wifi doesn’t work out there.” The Water is Life campaign turned this idea on its head by featuring Haitian children and adults reading these tweets aloud.
The video is intended to highlight the gap between the haves and the have-nots and has been described as one of the most innovative charity campaigns to hit YouTube. Lines such as “I hate it when my phone charger won’t reach my bed,” and “I hate it when my house is so big I need two wireless routers” are read out by Haitians, most of whom live on less than a dollar a day.
It’s one of the first campaigns that is trying to “reverse-trend” a popular hashtag. The video has been watched millions of times in just five days.
We speak with Matt Eastwood, the chief creative officer for the ad agency DDB New York which produced the campaign.
Read the Transcript
The text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI’s THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to firstname.lastname@example.org. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI’s THE WORLD is the program audio.
Marco Werman: There’s a new phrase you may have been picking up in current lingo, “first world problems”. You know, someone says something like, “It sucks having a house so big I can never find anything,” and then person number two replies, “Yeah, first world problems.” Well, there’s an ad agency in New York, DDB, that is dealing with this “sucks to be me in America” attitude head-on in a new video campaign. Here’s an excerpt.
Girl 1: I hate when my phone charger won’t reach my bed.
Boy: I hate when my leather seats aren’t heated.
Man: When I go to the bathroom and I forget my phone.
Girl 2: [Speaking Creole]
Werman: It’s kind of hard to hear, but what you’ve got in the video are ordinary people in Haiti, kids and adults, parroting straight into the camera some of the first world problems that people tweet about. One of those kids said, “I hate it when my leather seats aren’t heated.” You can see what I’m talking about at theworld.org. The video was created for Water is Life, a non-profit group that works to provide clean water for those in need. It’s one of the first campaigns to try and reverse trend a popular hashtag on Twitter. The hashtag in this case is #FirstWorldProblems. Matt Eastwood is chief creative officer at DDB New York, the agency that created the spot. Matt, was there one specific tweet that set this campaign in motion?
Matt Eastwood: Not really. The reality is that as we started developing the campaign, we realized that there are approximately 5 first world problem tweets per second. It’s one of the biggest trends on Twitter, so there’s a lot.
Werman: So what did you set out to do with these ad spots? I mean I know one press release says “DDB wants to eliminate the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems.
Eastwood: We were working on a brief for Water is Life and at that exact time one of the guys working on the brief, his air conditioner at home broke down and he was complaining that he had to pay two hundred dollars get it fixed and should he pay it or should the landlord pay it, and that contrast between this country of people who don’t have access to clean water is so in contrast to that that it has really struck us as a big idea.
Werman: Did you ever feel as if maybe these Haitians were being exploited? That you were maybe exploiting them, I mean admittedly, to make a point about the division between the poor and the wealthy? But still I mean what are they getting out of it?
Eastwood: The big thing they are getting donations and donations are massively up at Water is Life. Water is Life is an organization that funds and builds wells, so we are helping them raise money.
Werman: Have you gotten any responses from people who wrote one of the original featured complaints on Twitter?
Eastwood: We have actually, and it’s funny. People, they have a little bit of a Homer Simpson moment. They’re like, “D’oh!”. They feel a bit embarrassed, like, “Oh, I can’t believe I was complaining about I left my headphones in my car,” or whatever.
Werman: Well, Matt, since you and DDB created the ad, let me put you in the role of ethicist for a moment. I mean I feel the pain too because I have used the phrase “first world problems” in passing. I mean don’t people who use the phrase essentially cop to their cushy lives and recognize that they have this really insignificant problems compared to everybody else? I mean doesn’t self-awareness count for something?
Eastwood: The reality is they’re absolutely aware of what they’re doing when they’re doing it, but I think the continual use of it does desensitize us to the realities of real problems in the third world. We just felt like you can keep tweeting first world problems, but maybe if we could just get everyone to have a little second thought every time they did that, then I think we’ve achieved our goal.
Werman: Well, listeners can see the DDB campaign at our website, theworld.org. Matt Eastwood, chief creative officer at DDB New York. Thanks so much.
Eastwood: My pleasure.
Copyright ©2009 PRI’s THE WORLD. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to PRI’s THE WORLD. This transcript may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior written permission. For further information, please email The World’s Permissions Coordinator at email@example.com.