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Traveler photographs frustrating advertising scheme on airport water fountain: 'It's ridiculous that it's the only option'

It's a "good way to ruin your brand."

It’s a "good way to ruin your brand."

Photo Credit: iStock

It's an experience many of us have had — the hurried rush to refill a reusable water bottle between going through airport security and boarding the flight. But unfortunately for one traveler at Philadelphia International Airport, changes to the water fountain made that all but impossible, and they were forced to get on their flight without water.

The changes in question? The apparent privatization of the water fountain by SodaStream.

The traveler posted a photo of the new fountain, which included large branded displays and an advertising screen, on Reddit. "The only water available is 8oz per minute," they wrote

It's a "good way to ruin your brand."
Photo Credit: Reddit

Continuing, they explained, "They dispense about 8 oz, and then play you a video and try and get you to download an app. … So each person is there waiting for that bull**** to finish while this machine has replaced the public fountain."

"Nobody could figure this out so I got to leave without water," they concluded. "Screw you guys."

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia International Airport told The Cool Down that the station does feature an option to dispense plain water for free with no ads to begin pouring and that the airport does still have several regular water refilling stations.

Said the spokesperson: "We do have two Soda Stream machines in Terminals D and E that dispense 10, 16 and 20 ounces of water. Passengers can pay for still and sparkling flavored water. Plain water is dispensed free of charge — passengers do not need to watch videos or download the Soda Stream app for the water to pour. ... In addition to the Soda Stream machines, we have water bottle refilling stations throughout the airport, including two outside of restrooms nearby the Soda Stream machines in those terminals."

In a follow-up, the spokesperson said that "the user does not need to watch an ad to pour more than 8 ounces of water," adding: "I watched a passenger fill an empty 16 ounce plastic bottle yesterday, right before I filled my own 20 ounce bottle. Both were filled without interruption. I used both machines to just to make sure this was the case. ... The bottle needs to remain on the sensor below the spout for the water to be dispensed. If it is lifted, the machine could have been interrupted mid-pour."

With that in mind, it's possible the Redditor ran into some problems with the machine, or they and other waiting passengers found the system confusing. Commenters were concerned about the idea of tying ads to water refilling stations either way.

It's a "good way to ruin your brand," one said.

Intrusive advertisements have been cropping up everywhere they're least desired, from LED screens on the sides of trucks to floating billboards interrupting pristine beach views.

"Wait until they realize that they can play ads at urinals and in toilet stalls," one person said grimly. (Spoiler alert: They already have, but at least they haven't yet found a way to force you to remain there for a full minute.)

Not only are these ads disruptive and irritating, they're harmful for our brains and well-being. Advertising has been linked to a reduction in self-esteem and body image, especially among young women. 

And they're just as bad from an environmental standpoint. An excess of advertisements like these encourages unnecessary purchases, which threatens the planet by contributing to overproduction, the generation of pollutants, and more. 

Instead, more consumers are leaning into the "no-buy" movement and embracing the concepts of minimalism. Perhaps one day, the Philly airport will do the same.

Editor's note: This article was updated to add statements from a spokesperson for Philadelphia International Airport.

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