This week, coffee giant Starbucks announced that the free rides were over. Specifically, the rides on the brand's porcelain thrones.
Starbucks plans to convert its public restrooms to employee-only in New York City. A source told the New York Post that Starbucks is tired of being"the public bathroom in the city" as its own employees wait in long lines to use the facilities. So just as they're apparently getting tired of Wi-Fi sippers camping out for hours in their stores, they're taking away the amenities that make Starbucks a home away from home for many freelancers and job-seekers?
Turns out it's not true, as Starbucks subsequently denied the Post's report. The hullaba-loo came just days before World Toilet Day, a global day of recognition of people who lack adequate sanitation — and giddy writers in desperate need to relieve themselves of scatological puns.
A little history: in 2001 November 19 was declared World Toilet Day by, who else, the World Toilet Organization. The decade-old ode to the commode was envisioned "to raise global awareness of the struggle 2.6 billion face every day without access to proper, clean sanitation. WTD also brings to the forefront the health, emotional and psychological consequences the poor endure as a result of inadequate sanitation."
It's a noble pursuit. It also offers an unlimited opportunity for marketers to flex muscles that usually never make it past whispered comments in other product pitch meetings. There were 24 "Big Squat" events held in various nations last year, while this year a World Toilet Summit is taking place in China, with a theme of "Toilet Civilization: Health, Tourism, Quality of Life." (Yes, toilets are key to tourism and place branding.)
Also new this year is the "Talk Sh*t" effort. ToiletDay.org is asking web users to "Allow us to post daily status updates for World Toilet Day." Twitter and Facebook users can allow ToiletDay.org access to their accounts, through which organization will then post updates, as you, to raise awareness. "Let's make a difference. The best way to raise a stink is to raise awareness. Lend your voice for a good cause," Toilet Day implores.
As Ad Age points out, the Talk Sh*t campaign is reminiscent of a recent MTV Networks campaign, called "Give a Sh*t", which featured Twilight's Nikki Reed.
Hey, putting a Hollywood star of one of the hottest film properties in the world on a toilet talking about bowel movements probably gets better ratings than most of MTV's programming. The campaign was fun but doomed to raise only giggles and probably little genuine awareness and action about, well, anything.
TalkSh*t.org has enlisted Hollywood star Matt Damon (his interest in this comes via his involvement in Water.org) as its sh*tty celebrity spokesman. Hey, who wants to see Jason Bourne make a pun about crap?
About 1,608, according to YouTube. Damon also sat down for a longer interview about the problem of sanitation and water scarcity.
Damon and Water.org aren't alone in leveraging Toilet Day for a little attention. A Google search for "World Toilet Day" turns up a Google AdWord buy for Clorox's "Ode to the Commode" campaign.
Clorox is "not going to take it sitting down" and has posted a video on its "Ode to the Commode" Facebook page — where there's also an ad for the brand's ToiletWand product.
It's the same spot Clorox used last year but it's still pertinent, so there was no reason for Clorox to, well, flush it away.