On March 22, Getty Images launched its “Watermarks for Water” campaign to raise awareness about the global water crisis and help people around the world who lack clean drinking water. Pouring over their archives, the company assembled a collection of 300 photographs showcasing the water plight billions of people face each year.
The problem: Although three quarters of the world is covered in water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh, with one percent being easily accessible. And while clean water is an essential element in our lives, millions of people, especially in developing countries, don’t have access to it. In fact, statistics have shown that half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from a water-related disease. In the global south, women are primarily responsible for water collection. A recent report found that women in Sub Saharan Africa were responsible for 72 percent of the water collection for their homes.
“One of the things that struck us the most when working with Getty Images on this campaign is that more people die from drinking impure water than from war,” FCB Chicago chief creative officer Liz Taylor told AdWeek in an interview after the project. “That insight led us to take one of Getty Images’ most recognizable assets—the watermark—and flip the idea on its head: What if, by removing watermarks, we could start a global movement to bring clean water to those around the world who lack it?”
The approach: Images from Getty’s Watermarks for Water collection can either be licensed or shared on social media. If licensed, Getty Images will remove their watermark and donate 10 percent of their profit to charity:water, an organization dedicated to providing clean drinking water to people in developing countries.
If you decide to share one of images on social media instead, the watermark will remain, in addition to a caption appearing with facts about the water crisis. Captions include statistics like “Around 361,000 children under the age of five die every year from water-related diseases” or that “Every $1 invested in clean water can yield $4–$12 dollars in the local economy.” Getty wants their images to reach as many people as possible on social media with the hashtag #watermarksforwater.
In addition to the online campaign, Getty hosted a one-day exhibit of the photos in New York City on World Water Day. The Soho-gallery had 25 prints of the collection available for purchase, with 100 percent of the proceeds being donated to the cause.
The Feel Good: With the clever adage, “Remove Watermarks, Remove Impurities from Water,” Getty is harnessing the power of photography to raise awareness of one of the greatest issues still facing humankind. Providing clean, accessible water is a major step in helping people regain their livelihoods, get an education and break the cycle of poverty. If an image is truly worth a thousand words, perhaps 300 of them will generate enough conversation to make a lasting impact on water scarce regions.