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Client City of Cedar Park
Disciplines Branding, Design & Content, Marketing, Web Development

Saving water for one of America’s fastest-growing cities

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Planning Ahead

Cedar Park, situated just northwest of Austin, is one of the fastest-growing cities in America. Like many boomtowns, Cedar Park found itself with a challenge: There could be a water shortage on the horizon if changes weren’t made soon.

In the middle of a record-setting drought, Cedar Park moved to “Stage 3” water restrictions for the first time. With lake levels at record lows, they needed to call on residents to conserve water, reducing water usage to only one watering day per week. 

Cedar Park approached us, asking whether we could design and launch a targeted, multi-channel water conservation campaign in just a few months. Of course we could. 

Direct mail went into every home in Cedar Park, alerting them to the new water restrictions.

Swimming Upstream

Cedar Park identified one specific goal and one huge challenge.

The goal? To reduce water consumption by 20%. Considering the city’s population was growing by 5% every year, this was a lofty aspiration.

The challenge? The city had recently reduced its marketing budget by 60%. So this conservation campaign needed to be targeted and efficient. Every dollar spent should produce as much impact as possible.

So we got to work, as we always do, with strategy.

DOWN TO ONE

The first year of the campaign had a simple message: Residents were allowed to water their lawns only one day per week. That spawned our “Down to One” concept, which was deployed via direct mail into the home of every resident, along with ubiquitous outdoor signage around the city.

In the first year of the campaign, we were visible in the community with signage at public pools and on pump toppers at gas stations, featuring the Down To One logo.

How to Buy Media Wisely

With the campaign underway, we began to expand its reach using a common sense media plan. We knew that a traditional media buy would be wasteful, as any dollars that snuck across the city limits into Austin would be wasted and cause confusion. (Austin has different water restrictions.)

Instead, we expanded our coverage to include:

  • Unavoidable outdoor spots (like pump toppers at gas stations and banners at city pools)
  • Targeted radio ads on Pandora (which used geo-locating to ensure only Cedar Park residents heard them)
  • Banner advertisements on popular weather websites (using IP addresses to make sure only Cedar Park residents saw them)

AN EVER“GREEN” MESSAGE

After the “Down to One” campaign was a hit, in the second year of the campaign, we moved to a more long-term message: “Stand Up to Drought.”

In subsequent years of the campaign, we focused on digital outreach via social posts and banner ads.

Using the same campaign identity, we peppered residents with water conservation messages for several years, including water-saving tips and information on city-wide conservation rebates.

Why this approach? Because research revealed that Cedar Park’s demographics care more about “preserving for future generations” than “saving the environment.” Messages centered on “going green” or “environmental protection” wouldn’t fly. Instead, we appealed to Cedar Parkers’ sense of individualism, empowering them to have an effect on their beloved hometown and the children of their community.

The website featured clear watering schedules and a dynamic lake level gauge.

The Website

Also in the second year, we furthered our digital efforts. We created a microsite for the conservation initiative that:

  • Used an API to display the current level of the lake (a popular way for residents to track the severity of the drought)
  • Displayed the current Water Restriction Stage
  • Showed the current weekly watering schedule via a clear, interactive map

The Bean Dude (Doesn’t) Abide

Research also showed that when it comes to environmental concerns, children are often the key influencers in changes to family behavior.

So we created an animated video featuring a cartoon bean over-watering his lawn, reminding residents to help conserve water for future generations of little bean dudes. The video was featured prominently on the website, in Cedar Park movie theaters, and as YouTube pre-roll for Cedar Park IP addresses.

Numbers you won’t normally see together

23%
reduction in water usage
4th
fastest-growing city in the U.S.
60%
reduction in marketing budget

The Verdict

The campaign was so effective that in the second year of our work with the city, certain water restrictions were eased, re-allowing the use of slip-and-slides (critical in Texas summers!) and at-home car washing.

Despite record rainfalls in the last few years, water issues in Texas aren’t going away soon. We’ve created a program that’s as flexible as it is budget-conscious. And the results are undeniable.

Awards

  • Graphic Design USA
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