How San Francisco used poop jokes to save its sewer system

When faced with an aging sewer system in need of costly repairs, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission used an usual campaign that included slogans such as  No One Deals With More Crap Than I Do and Your #2 Is My #1.

“Without a functioning water and sewer system, you are essentially left with a third-world country,” says Tyrone Jue, SFPUC’s director of communications. “Parts of our system date back to the Gold Rush. Parts are seismically unreliable. You can see the effects of climate change on our sewer system, with the rising sea level. But [unlike tap water], which is a tangible resource, the [only] experience people have with the sewer system is the flushing of their toilet. Things going down the drain, and they probably don’t even think about it.”

Getting people to engage and realize the importance of their critical sewage infrastructure involved an edgier campaign with public service advertising and a social media presence, and yes, that meant poop jokes.

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