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NGOs Find Creative Ways to Address ‘First World Problems,’ Wasteful Products

Motivating the public to participate in a campaign can be challenging, especially when it involves changing behaviors or contemplating a social ill that’s more pleasant to forget. But lest society collapse from its ignorance, advocates press on with clarion calls for social and environmental action.

Two recent advocacy campaigns continue to demonstrate the efficacy of integrating clever, eye-catching displays with light-hearted appeals for change.

The first, on behalf of the Dutch AIDS Foundation, takes on something we likely all experience as readers of this publication, with access to the Internet and bandwidth to contemplate the future: first-world problems.

At the First World Problem store, you can buy pills that promise things such as “perfectly timed jokes,” “always super wifi,” “Instagram followers” and “flowery farts.” The pills are actually just peppermints, but your purchase funds access to vital medication for the 22 million people living with AIDS around the world.

Developing and Aligning on Brand Purpose

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“A lot of people just don’t have access to AIDS medication due to social, political or economic reasons,” Niek Stevens, Campaign Director at Sue Amsterdam, the creative firm leading the campaign, told PSFK. “In the western world, you have access to 20 different kinds of medication for minor issues. But there are people in Myammar who are having to choose between themselves and their children, because they can only access enough medication for one.”

The campaign was designed to make a sensitive issue seem both pressing and palatable. Its success has been wild, according to Stevens. People buying the pills often donate additional amounts to the cause or buy them as gifts for friends struggling with a particular first-world problem. Last week, the Dutch AIDS Foundation announced the store will now double as a pop-up shop for the pills.

“A tourist walked in there one day and handed the receptionist 100 euro because he loved the campaign so much. That’s why they’re turning it into a store,” Stevens said.

Meanwhile, WWF Australia has collaborated with Leo Burnett on the less cheeky but equally compelling ‘just’ campaign, demonstrating how common household ingredients can replace many chemical-filled, overly packaged commercial products.

just productsFor example, did you know that cinnamon can be used for mouthwash, orange peel can be used for insect repellent, lemons can be glass cleaner and honey can be used for burn relief?

A limited number of these product alternatives were distributed at local markets in Sydney, where customers could purchase them in return for sharing their experience on social media using the hashtag #JustNatural. Ad stalls in shopping centers even dispensed the natural ingredients so people could try them right away. A website,, features how-to videos and encourages people to share their own ideas for sustainable product alternatives.

The results are in: WWF’s just market stores have seen over 11,000 visitors in four days, 73,000 organic social interactions in the first month, and over 550,000 earned media coverage.

“The just initiative has been created to show there are simple and natural alternatives to many of the highly packaged goods people buy and use every day,” said Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF Australia. “Through the just campaign, we hope to highlight how a few small changes, done by many, can help reduce our ecological footprint. It’s a way for people to think about where their products come from, how they are made and the impact they have on the planet.”


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