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Hustle and Flow

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For Peggy Conlon, Ad Council president and CEO, the issue is scalability. "These are not the first bottles to come out and tell us we should fill them up with tap water," Conlon says. "I wonder if only using digital media, and not having the right distribution partners, like a Wal-Mart, will limit their options. It is the perfect product for the times, but we will see bigger players coming in to put significantly more marketing dollars behind the effort and scale up the distribution of the product. You have to get into the mass-market chains."

DiMassimo himself acknowledges Conlon's point. "We are very far from maximizing the opportunity because we are focused on our day jobs, and have commitments to clients that have to come first," he says.

In the end, these are communication guys who admit that they know little about product manufacturing and distribution.

Opportunities

There is the opportunity for the Tappening founders to find a strategic partner who knows how to manufacture products and distribute them on a global scale. "Then we would be acting like a smart client," DiMassimo says.

The duo has also been talking to water filter companies, such as Pur and Brita, which view the Tappening movement as a great way to brand tap water, and consider the effort a perfect fit with the products they are selling. The Tappening founders declined to name the two companies they are talking to.

"The goal here wasn't to evaluate success based on the usual brand metrics," DiMassimo says. "We really wanted to create a brand movement, and we are happy to have the Tappening name adopted by people who are not our customers. We cannot believe the number of water entrepreneurs who have come out of the woodwork since we launched this."

Threats

The biggest threat is someone who can do it bigger and better. Someone like Sir Richard Branson, the British founder of the Virgin Music label, Virgin Airways and Virgin Cola, DiMassimo says.

"We have created an opportunity that is attracting competitors, and somebody who comes in and combines our level of branding skills with a big-budget commitment and fully focused management team will produce a huge business," he says.

Conlon is even more blunt. "I like the idea and I like the product, but I am not sure a part-time, Web-only based hobby approach will take off," she says.

Sir Richard, are you listening?

Wendy Melillo is an Adweek contributing writer and an assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University.