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Copywriter Aahana Pereira talks working on Michelle Obama’s “Drink Up” initiative

Millions around the world have seen Aahana Pereira’s work, but likely don’t know her name. That is often the case for those that work in advertising; they remain in the shadows while their work shines, inspiring others to buy a product or take part in an initiative. Pereira doesn’t mind this. The Indian native sees her work in advertising as simply telling stories. With each new project she takes on, she doesn’t simply ask herself, “How will I sell this?”, instead, she asks, “How will I tell this products story?”. That is what makes her such a formidable copywriter.

“The challenge of copywriting is to write by staying true to the brand voice. Each brand stands for something, whether it’s serious, funny, quirky, spirited etc. It is most important that I write in a way that doesn’t seem off from the brand. You also have to consider the craft. You know there is always pressure to write the right words in a given time. It is like a stage performance – even if you have practised it a hundred times, what you do on stage in front of an audience at that time is what matters. In ad agencies we are always on our toes to deliver campaigns, I find it challenging to craft the right copy at that moment in time. I overcome this by going at it after work hours. If I come up with something better, I share that and most of the time it receives support,” she described.

Pereira has an impressive resume. She began her career working for IBN, one of the largest television networks in the world. After creating many successful campaigns for the network, she moved on, and has since worked with Colgate, Palmolive, Motul, and more. However, the highlight of her career came in 2014 when she worked on “Drink Up”, an initiative by First Lady, Michelle Obama in partnership for a Healthier America that encourages people to drink more water.

“I was very excited when I got this opportunity. I knew this was going to be a big project and I felt truly honoured to have been picked to work on this project. I was motivated every single day to go to work and push my brain harder because it was a project for the First Lady of the United States. She would be looking at what we wrote and what we presented so the pressure was high,” she said.

The idea behind the campaign that Pereira and her team came up with was that water is the unsung hero behind every success story. This idea was communicated by a series of pictures and videos of famous personalities like Audrey Hepburn, Albert Einstein and Muhammed Ali with a glass of water, showing that water was the secret ingredient behind their success and that’s what makes water so powerful yet so modest. The campaign was promoted by Michelle Obama through the spreadthewater website and Twitter. At the same time, advertising posters appeared on bus shelters, coffee shops, newspapers, and more. The videos were released as YouTube commercials and also appeared on various partnered websites.

“This initiative is an important one. Myself being extremely health conscious, I knew the importance of this campaign. The campaign was aimed at making healthier life choices, starting by asking the public to drink more water. It was an alternative way to say, drink less soda. It feels good to work on a project that promotes good health and well-being. The reason I felt we did a good job was because it came from the heart,” said Pereira.

The campaign was a non-profit initiative that was hugely successful, with a record increase in sales of bottled water. The response and interaction from Americans was overwhelming. The campaign quickly caught the attention of all mainstream media channels like Time magazine, Atlantic, New York Times, Creativity Online and many others.

“This project was a complete teamwork. We had a lot of fun during our brainstorming sessions. We also learned a lot as creatives and dug deep into American insights related to food and drink choices. It was stressful, but it was for a good cause and we had to convince Michelle Obama. This excitement was beyond measure,” she said.

When they received the pitch for Drink Up, Pereira and her Art Director partner, Joaquin Alvarez, started having regular brainstorming sessions, trying to come up with an idea that would impress the First Lady. They had many meetings with their creative directors, going back and forth with ideas and developing them. It was a tough brief but they kept their drive knowing they were working for the White House. They had a rough idea of having important and talented individuals revealing their secret. That’s how “water, the unsung hero” was born, the crucial force that kept them going. They decided to use historical figures to give the message that even they had water. Water was there during all those moments that made them what they became. This idea was pitched to the representatives to the White House and they loved it. Pereira was a copywriter and creative when production began, and after months of tireless work, her efforts paid off and the campaign was published and showcased all across America.

“I remember working with Aahana since the first round of the Drink Up campaign. She is a great creative to work with. From the first brainstorming you could see her talent and dedication to build on the rough concepts and then craftily word them. The brainstorming then turned into a selling concept proving the quality she brings to the table. It was so much fun working with her," said Joaquin Alvarez, Freelance Art Director, (Saatchi & Saatchi, Laundry Service) New York.

Pereira was vital to the success of Michelle Obama’s “Drink Up” campaign. As the creative and copywriter who worked on the project, she was one of the solid contributors to bring this idea to life. She helped to write the copy and find the right historical figures that would resonate with Americans. These had to be historical figures from various fields, and with her help, they narrowed it down to just three: Einstein, Mohammed Ali and Audrey Hepburn. Such iconic figures encouraged everyone across America, and the rest of the world, to drink more water.

“This process was fun from beginning to end,” she concluded.

Photo by Jonny Arcila

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