How to Reduce Environmental Amster-damage using Digital

Potje Pissen

I simply love this digital project centered around the core concept of “who can pee the most”. Now, granted that does sound a little crude, and maybe I’m just being a big kid with a daft sense of humour, but in my opinion it is in-fact one of the best digital concepts I’ve seen for a public event in recent years.

“Potje Pissen” (meaning “Piss Off” in English – only in Holland!) was commissioned by Waternet who are the Water Company for Amsterdam and its surrounding area. They are therefore responsible for keeping the world famous Amsterdam canals clean throughout the year – which I imagine isn’t exactly easy.

However, there is always one particular day for Waternet each year that is very problematic for them, and can tend to undo most of their good work cleaning the canals. The day in question is “Queensday” – which is a celebrated national holiday in the Netherlands that rivals New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, with an additional two million party-goers visiting the capital for a big knees up!

The Dutch being the Dutch – lovely bunch of people that they are – tend to go a bit over the top on the beer consumption on the day, and therefore tend to get ye olde loose bladder syndrome – or “lager bladder” as a friend of mine puts it. So what do you do when you find yourself in the loose bladder situation and there are long queues for toilets in the nearest bars and pubs? Yep, you guessed it – you head for the canal and unleash all that used lager into the Amsterdam waterways.

Which is obviously very convenient for the revelers, but a nightmare for the boys in the boiler-suits at Waternet. So they shared their annual problem with Achtung!, their digital agency who in-turn devised a brilliant concept to reduce the number of people peeing in the Canals.

So in April 2012, the party-goers were provided with digital installations on numerous outdoor toilets that turned the call of nature into a peeing contest! The toilets were hooked up with digital pressure sensors that showed your bladder capacity on a big screen for all to see. Your ouput(!) was measured by how high the on-screen duck sat at the foot of a cylinder was pushed up it by using your virtual pee – to compete all you had to do was point and squirt! Brilliant.

So, you’re having a few beers with your friends and next minute you’re competing with him / her / them on how much bigger your bladder is than theirs! And essentially these outdoor toilets became multi-player gaming stations that not only entertained groups of friends and on-lookers, but also had a positive effect on the immediate environment. And all the while being in the spirit of the day.

I’d be interested to know if this creative investment in digital media actually saved them a few Euro’s on the post-party clean-up! It may well have, but even if it didn’t it will still have created a long-term feel good factor for the tax paying consumer about Waternet’s brand – as well as injecting a great deal of fun and personality into the perception of the brand. I’m sure it was a great talking point many days after the event in the homes and pubs of Holland. Never a bad thing.

For us at D4, that’s the power and beauty of digital in public spaces and events, any company can connect with their audience and create interactive entertainment that is fun, engaging, useful and beneficial to all involved. And if you can make it environmentally friendly too then you’re really doing well!

Well done to Waternet. And well done to all the contestants who took part – you got drunk, had a pee, made your mates laugh and did your bit for the Amsterdam canals… Now that’s what I call a day out!

Paul Herron

Paul is a lover of all things digital. He’s seen the rise of digital over the past 20 years and is still excited by how it can transform a business. He also likes internet cats and (still) has a teenage crush on Björk.

  • Andy D4
    Posted at 13:02h, 23 May Reply

    Legendary Dutch openness! Great idea!

    • Paul Herron
      Posted at 12:32h, 24 May Reply

      I wonder if a project like this would be stopped in the UK or other less ‘open’ countries by loads of red-tape and bureaucrats getting overly involved?

  • Daniela
    Posted at 03:48h, 03 June Reply

    Hi all!! I am doing a case study on this campaign for a Marketing class at the University of Chicago and was wondering if anyone knew where I can find any type of results for the campaign? How many people used the urinal, how much cleaner the canals were, anything at all?


    • Paul Herron
      Posted at 09:23h, 06 June Reply

      Hi Daniela

      Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately I don’t have actual statistics. But, you can always ask the Dutch agency who created the campaign;

      Prins Hendrikkade 21-1
      1012 TL

      +31 20 623 26 96

      And / or, you could contact Waternet direct;

      Stichting Waternet
      Korte Ouderkerkerdijk 7
      1096 AC

      +31 889 39 40 00

      And, if you do find out the actual statistics will you be kind enough to share them with us please – as we’d love to know more? You can post them on this page or email me direct.


  • Medic! - Blog - D4
    Posted at 08:43h, 15 June Reply

    […] it’s up there with the Potje Pissen! campaign I blogged about […]

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