Clorox and HuffPost’s RYOT Made a 360-Degree Video About Clean Drinking Water

Explaining waterborne illnesses and killing bacteria

Headshot of Marty Swant

Clorox is most often associated with cleaning kitchens and stains, but it's probably not a brand that comes to mind when you think about clean drinking water.

To help raise awareness of the poor quality of water in rural Peru, the company known for its household products has sponsored its first 360-degree video, and it shows what a difference a few drops of bleach can make. The film, Purely Peru, was produced by HuffPost's RYOT and AOL to explain waterborne illnesses and how Clorox's Safe Water Project provides materials to kill bacteria and viruses.

According to HuffPost RYOT CMO Molly Swenson, branded content is becoming less commercialized and is increasingly focused on character-driven narratives and experiences.

"If it's good enough, nobody is going to care if a brand is attached to it if it's an authentic story," Swenson said. "I don't think that someone is going to see some cool VR experience and then if a brand is attached to it they're going to be like, 'Ah, I don't like that VR experience anymore' or 'I don't like that documentary film anymore.'"

The film was in part inspired by another VR film featuring U2 frontman and activist Bono to shed light on the lack of access to energy in rural Tanzania. 

Since launching four years ago, RYOT, a virtual-reality and immersive storytelling company that was acquired by AOL earlier this year and folded into its Huffington Post property to focus on emerging formats such as 360-degree video and augmented reality, has tried to incorporate with every film a way for viewers to become more engaged with its subject. For the Clorox film, RYOT worked with parent company Verizon Wireless to integrate a click-to-donate button for viewers who want to make a donation to the Safe Water Project after watching the film.

During the past year, several organizations have sought to raise awareness and funding to increase access to clean water in rural areas around the world. Last year, the nonprofit Charity: Water created its own 360-degree film.

The film was shot by RYOT co-founder David Darg, who has come across products similar to that of Clorox a number of times while doing relief work through his nonprofit, Operation Blessing. Swenson mentioned that Darg remembered using Clorox products while shooting a film for RYOT in Liberia about the Ebola outbreak. (The film, Body Team 12, went on to earn an Oscar nomination in the best short documentary category.)

"We flush water down our toilets every day that's cleaner than the water that much of the world has access to—ever," Swenson told Adweek. "So I think when you're looking for a way to tell a story like that, it doesn't always have transportive abilities. You need to feel proximity to it in order to truly understand at a deep level what life is like for someone who doesn't have access to that very basic necessity that we take for granted."

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.