Sometime in the next few months, readers flipping through Time magazine might be struck by an unusual advertisement.
In the ad, 80 glasses of water stand in five rows, sandwiching the headline: "If You Had To Drink All the Water Wasted Every Time You Brushed Your Teeth, You'd Never Get Out Of The Bathroom."
Eighty glasses, or five gallons, of water goes down the drain each minute the faucet runs.
Belinda Crosby Butler and Claudia Simpson Dudley, who created the ad for Crosby Communications of Annapolis, thought that was a waste. Nobody could possibly drink that much water at once, they thought. But without much effort, everyone can turn off the faucet and conserve water.
Butler and Dudley, an art director/copywriter team, don't like to preach, judge or criticize. Instead, they hope the humor in their ad will grab readers' attention and motivate them with a gentle nudge.
Judges of Time magazine's environmental challenge competition expect that it will.
The magazine's editors, who named Endangered Earth as Planet of the Year in 1988, asked advertising agencies in April to create environmental messages. Judges chose the Crosby ad as one of the 10 most powerful out of more than 300 entries.
Winning ads will appear over the next few months in the 1.3 million-circulation magazine. Each will include a request for donations to the Environmental Challenge Fund for environmental studies scholarships.
The 14-person Crosby Communications agency competed against some of the nation's largest, most prestigious firms, such as BBDO in New York, which boasts Pepsi as a client. Crosby handles marketing, advertising and public relations for clients in Baltimore, Washington and Annapolis.
"That's what makes me most proud," said Butler, a 1986 University of Delaware graduate who has worked as art director for J. Walter Thompson in Washington and Smith, Burke and Azzam in Baltimore, where she met Dudley.
"They say you have to go to New York to make it big in advertising and have an impact. That's not true."
She and Dudley, a freelance copywriter for Crosby, came up with their idea one night after work. First, they consulted "50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth."
"We wanted to do something every person could do," Butler said. "We didn't want to do recycling, because there has been a lot of publicity."
When they discovered that running the faucet for one minute wastes five gallons of water, they looked for a dramatic way to illustrate five gallons. After narrowing down the concept, they settled on 80 drinking glasses.
And they wrote, "Just by turning off the water while you brush, you'll help preserve a scenic river. You'll help reduce the cost of water and sewage treatment. And you'll lower your water bill."
Butler, Dudley and Ralph Crosby, agency president and Butler's father, sent the entry off feeling confident.
Still, when Time publisher Louis A. Weil called with the news, "I was flabbergasted," Crosby said.
Weil told the president of the 18-year-old agency that the ad "cleverly reveals a simple problem everyone can relate to."
Other winning ads took different, and in some cases, more sober, approaches.
One ad urges people to recycle, conserve and use non-toxic products before the air becomes unbreathable and the water undrinkable. "Take A Deep Breath. Hold It," says a Houston firm's ad.
In another, a massive Egyptian pyramid fills the page, accompanied by this headline: "Your cheeseburger box will be around even longer."
Garbage piles up around the Statue of Liberty in a Detroit firm's ad that says, "Throughout History, Many Great Civilizations Have Been Buried.
None, However, By Their Own Garbage."
Then there's a New York agency's ad with photos of each planet in the solar system. The ad explains why each is uninhabitable. "If The Earth Isn't Worth Saving, Consider The Alternatives," the headline warns.
Rather than asking people to save the whole world at once, Crosby's president and creative team has asked for just one thing.
"We hope the ad makes people pause, think about the environment and start conserving water," said Crosby, who has gauged the ad's effectiveness so far by local reactions.
"When I meet people on the street, they say, 'Congratulations, and oh yeah, I stopped running the water when I brush my teeth.' "