Los Angeles unveiled its big drought-driven water conservation campaign this week, around the hashtag #SaveTheDropLA. But if you think The Drop looks familiar, you're right: water shortages have often brought out the creative cartoonists for conservation campaigns in California. (And elsewhere - check out the stark message in this cartoon about kids who are friends with Quattuora, an Abu Dhabi water droplet.)
Let’s meet the stars of some California campaigns, present and past.
The Drop (Los Angeles)
LA’s would-be drought superstar is made up of simple, almost block-stamped shapes and flat colors. That simple appearance makes The Drop appealing, and potentially cool.
Still, look closer into The Drop’s sad eyes: this guy wants to have a complex emotional relationship with you, and it's gonna be mostly about his needs. Maybe The Drop is sad because of water waste. This tag line about showers relies on the kind of psychology my mom used to make me behave when I was 6. If The Drop is a sort of emo, Gen-X parent, we Angelenos are his churlish kids.
Others have found he (she?) looks familiar...but in a fast-fashion ripoff kind of way.
Mervyn (Long Beach)
The Drop looks an awful lot like Mervyn – the star of Long Beach's water saving campaign. Mervyn is decidedly not cool, starting with his name. One look at his face, and you can see that Mervyn really, really wants you to like him. You might call him needy, but in the current argot, thirsty is probably more apt.
Since January, Long Beach has been leaving mini-Mervyns in places, snapping their images, and posting them to Facebook along with a tip or a bit of water news.
But perhaps Mervyn’s cheerfulness works in sort of a reverse-cool way. Long Beach is often touted by state water officials as a conservation leader.
Ricki the Raindrop and Ginni Groundwater (Orange County)
The Drop reminds some people of the early '90s conservation campaign out of Orange County that tracked the adventures of Ricki the Raindrop and Ginni Groundwater, two stars of grammar-school water education in the O.C. over the last 40 years.
Ricki and Ginni taught schoolchildren in Orange County their origin stories: where they came from, either imported and transported through a pipe or sucked up out of aquifers. They've got wholesome voices, but their journey perhaps lacks some narrative tension: we all know where they're going. Unless you grew up with them, Ricki and Ginni may not make you want to go along for the ride.
Lawn Dude (Southern California)
Lawn Dude has originality going for him. Instead of being a molecule of water that somehow has anima and remains suspended as a solid entity, he’s an anthropomorphic piece of grass with sort of a tennis-fuzz hairstyle.
And he likes to party. Check out the martini glass with a daisy in it. He’s sort of louche and dissolute. The idea seems to be that he’s a guy whose peak time is coming to an end, just like Beanie Babies. Lawn Dude has drunk from life’s rich fountain, but now he’s sort of like a functioning waterholic, keeping his cocktails to nighttime (or at least after 5 p.m.), not drinking so much he wakes up bloated and (dare I say) hungover.
Lawn Dude is kind of saying: hey, I’m no better than you.
Of course, the lengthening drought raises questions about whether Lawn Dude can – or should – survive another hot, dry summer. But then Lawn Dude has an answer to that.
Do any of these guys convince you to save water? Take our poll.