Duracell Shines a Light on Puerto Rico’s Ongoing Struggles in ‘Island Without Power’

John Leguizamo narrates W+K New York's short documentary

Duracell shipped approximately 2.5 million batteries to residents of Puerto Rico. Duracell

The aftermath of Hurricane Maria left some 3.4 million residents of Puerto Rico without electricity, with nearly 90 percent of the island cut off from the power grid.

Narrated by actor and New Generation Latino Media co-founder John Leguizamo, the new Duracell-branded documentary spot from W+K New York called “Island Without Power” examines how this loss of electricity has impacted everyday life for residents of the island. Leguizamo’s narration explains that in the aftermath of the storm, “classrooms and hospitals are lit by flashlight,” and that without a generator, “batteries are one of the only ways to get power.”

Residents of Puerto Rico are facing the reality that it may be months until the power grid is restored, and the problems of life without electricity range from the obvious (severed communications and no way to combat the oppressive heat) to the potentially catastrophic (parents unable to provide respiratory treatment for an infant with pneumonia).

“Island Without Power” ends on a positive note, celebrating Puerto Rico’s determination to move forward. After showing various residents assisted by the availability of batteries—from powering a radio to keep up with restoration progress to providing necessary medical treatments—the spot shifts its focus to Duracell’s response. Stocked with batteries, Duracell’s PowerForward fleets arrive on the island to provide alternative power to those most in need. The spot concludes by calling on viewers to donate to the people of Puerto Rico who still need help months after the initial devastation.

“Island Without Power” is an example of a brand doing activism right in the wake of political upheaval and natural disaster in a year when many brands got it very wrong. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Duracell unleashed its biggest deployment of its Duracell PowerForward initiative, which was launched in 2011. Duracell senior brand manager Alfonso Arteaga told Adweek the deployment was the largest “not just in duration, but also in the amount of product we gave away to those in need.” This iteration lasted for five weeks, during which Duracell shipped approximately 2.5 million batteries.

The brand’s move particularly hit home for Arteaga. Just months before the storm hit on Sept. 20, Arteaga and his family had moved back to Puerto Rico from Bethel, Connecticut; After witnessing the destruction firsthand, Arteaga “knew we had to do something,” and the company’s leadership team “quickly approved” the request. The PowerForward fleet landed in Puerto Rico on Oct. 15 and started delivering the following day.

“The logistical challenge to reaching those in need was really the lack of telecommunications in the island,” Arteaga explained.

He added that the PowerForward team had to update locations via the AM radio, which he noted was “the only medium that really worked on the first 45 days after the storm passed.” They worked jointly with the Office of the First Lady of Puerto Rico, who Artaega said “alerted the mayors of the towns we were visiting, so they in turn spread the word in the town.”

In addition to the lighting devices that immediately come to mind in the wake of a power outage and the tools highlighted in “Island Without Power,” Arteaga also pointed to glucose monitoring devices for diabetics, hearing aids and blood pressure monitors as a few other critical devices that needed power to function.

“Also, those who don’t live in Puerto Rico might not know that in certain places, the water was contaminated, and that due to the amount of rain, mosquito-based disease[s] were on the rise,” he added. “There are battery-powered water-filtration systems that help those without running water [who previously] had to resort to collecting water from streams and waterfall, and there are mosquito-repellent wands that could help fight against mosquito based diseases.”

When asked about future plans for Duracell’s relief efforts in Puerto Rico, he said the compay is “exploring some ideas to further help the people of Puerto Rico, but these will be revealed on a later date.”


Vice President, Marketing: Ramon Velutini
Senior Brand Manager: Alfonso Arteaga
Power Forward/Gigunda: Ryan Fitzsimons

Wieden​ ​+​ ​Kennedy New York
Account Director: Mike Welch
Executive Creative Director: Karl Lieberman
Creative Director: Eric Helin, Gary Van Dzura
Creative: Dom Tunon
Executive Producer: Alison Hill
Management Supervisor: Meghan Mullen
Account Executive: Jamie Robinson
Social Strategist: Liz Lightbody
Communications Planner: Stuart Augustine
Business Affairs: Michael Moronez

On​ ​Location​ ​Crew
Production Company: Acres New York
Producer: Dom Tunon
Director: Paul Hairston
Director of Photography: Matthew Ballard
Assistant Camera: Quentin Rodriguez
Story Producer: Francisco Ellias
Line Producer: Susan De Palma
Producers: Ines and Camilla Mongil
Sound: Margarita Aponte
DIT: Maria Fernanda Beltran
Transport: Willie Ramirez
Photographer: Erinn Springer

Graphics: GrandArmy
Color: Tom Poole at Company3
Sound Design + Mix: DeFacto Sound
Original Music: Alberto Torrens
Editor: Lindsey Houston, Kris Kaczor
Assistant: Nick Farfan
Producer: Renee Haar

@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.