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Sukle Advertising & Design’s ‘Use Only What You Need’ campaign for Denver Water inducted into OBIE Hall of Fame

By Rajiv Raghunath - May 23, 2022

Denver Water just the second regional brand in the US to be Inducted in Hall of Fame’s 30-year history

Denver-based advertising agency Sukle Advertising & Design has announced that the ‘Use Only What You Need’ campaign that it created and directed for Denver Water has been inducted into the OBIE Hall of Fame by the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA). Established in 1992, the OBIE Hall of Fame was created to recognise brands that have built an enduring legacy through the consistent use of the OOH advertising medium over many years. The induction took place during the 80th Annual OBIE Awards during a live ceremony held at the Geopath/OAAA 2022 OOH Media Conference & Expo on Marco Island in Florida on May 17.

“This is one of the highest creative honours in our industry, and we are immensely proud to be recognised by OAAA and our peers,” said Mike Sukle, owner of Sukle Advertising & Design. “Creating and managing the campaign for a decade shaped how we approach every campaign we create. It cemented our philosophy that work must be both smart and creative to generate exceptional results. And while mass media including out of home was critical, the campaign spread almost as much through word of mouth. Our audience became our media. That’s an important lesson for all brands. And if you can make people like you, they may also listen to you.”

Every year OAAA asks its membership to vote for the brand to be inducted into the OBIE Hall of Fame. In 2022 the contenders included Denver Water, Google, Netflix, P&G, Pepsi and Samsung. Denver Water is only the second regional brand to be inducted into the OBIE Hall of Fame in its 30-year history. The first was San Diego Zoo in 1995. Past winners include some of the biggest brands in the industry such as Apple, Target, Geico, and Nike, just to name a few. 

“Denver Water has achieved legendary OOH status with a sustained level of creative excellence over many years,” said Anna Bager, President and CEO, OAAA. “Their commitment to the ‘Use Only What You Need’ headline came to life in a seemingly endless number of creative solutions. Truly brilliant and entertaining work.” 

In 2007, Denver Water Board embarked on a 10-year plan with the goal of decreasing water consumption by 22% of pre-drought levels. Denver Water engaged Sukle Advertising & Design to develop a creative advertising campaign to help accomplish this goal. The Sukle team created a smart idea – Use Only What You Need – delivered in a creative way that evolved with each year of the campaign. The campaign showcased easy ways to communicate how to use only what you need… a broken sprinkler head cascading to a giant billboard; a billboard-height knotted hose; a park bench with the campaign on just enough seat for one person. Another iteration of the campaign utilised during a drought year when conversation efforts needed to be amped up – Use Even Less – featured toilets placed at bus shelters with posters outlining how great the toilet is but how much water it uses and offering rebates for switching to high efficiency toilets. A lengthy messaging played on the idea of reading while you’re on the toilet. 

“For the first year to two we used the medium to demonstrate that just because you are given a lot of something, you don’t need to use all of it,” said Sukle. “In subsequent years we started to drill down on specific behaviours we wanted to change, like not watering between 10am and 6pm, fixing broken sprinklers or leaking toilets.” 

Most importantly, the Use Only What You Need campaign was a resounding success. After only the first three months of the campaign, Denver Water reported a 21% decrease in water usage and generated an 89% awareness level among Denver Water customers.

“Denver Water’s signature orange box asking customers to Use Only What You Need became advertising legend in the Denver metro area,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/Manager. “In a light-hearted and at times outrageous way, the campaign led the charge for our conservation programming where we had a critical call to action: Reduce water use by 22%. Eight years after achieving that goal, Use Only What You Need has remained a one-of-a-kind catchphrase that has continued to help Coloradans embrace a culture of conservation, which is so vital in the arid West where water is such a precious resource.”

In addition to the OBIE Hall of Fame induction, Use Only What You Need has been highly awarded in the industry including Communication Arts Annual Advertising Competition, The OBIE Awards, The Venice Festival of Media, Lürzer’s Int’l Archive, Ads of the World, Graphic Design USA, The Ad Club of Colorado and more. The campaign has received notable press coverage from The New York TimesWall Street Journal, NPR, Huffington PostAdWeekCreativityTreehugger and Inc., among others.

 “Little did we know the impact Use Only What You Need would have on the agency,” said Sukle. “Because of Denver Water and the effectiveness of the Use Only What You Need campaign, we now work across the country, helping to solve water and environmental issues, two issues that we are immensely passionate about.”


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