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From the 9th Annual Shorty Awards

Venmo Micro Hack

Finalist in Non-Profit

Bronze Honor in Emerging Platform


Millennials are ditching cash and credit cards for digital payments, and they don't see donating to charities as an easy, everyday thing. We were challenged to raise millennial awareness and increase donations to clean water charity WATERisLIFE.

Strategy and Execution

WATERisLIFE had an idea to use Venmo, millennials' favorite payment app, to show them just how easy donating can be. The only problem? Venmo doesn't allow ads. So, we decided to hack Venmo—by turning a thousand 1-cent payments into hyper-targeted ads.

Venmo works like a social media community, where you can add personalized messages to your payments. We started by monitoring Venmo's global feed, saw who was paying who, and for what, sent them a micro payment tailored after the user's activity. We targeted 1,000 people paying each other back, exploiting Venmo's unlimited character caption to turn every payment into a personalized ad for WATERisLIFE. So, people paying each other back for, say, pizza, immediately received a 1-cent payment and a personalized ad. All ads were automatically published to users' news feed for all their friends to see, and to Venmo's public global feed. By finding a way around Venmo's ad-ban, we had created our own media channel.


For a $10 investment, we were able to send 1,000 unique ads that went directly to each person, their friend's news feeds and to the global Venmo feed. That $10 got us 1.78 million worth of earned media—and a call from Venmo, telling us that while they had to shut the campaign down for violating terms of service, they were so impressed by it, they offered WATERisLIFE the apps third ever charity account, allowing us to legitimately raise money next to non-profits like The American Heart Association and Malaria No More.

All for just 10 bucks.


Video for Venmo Micro Hack

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Deutsch, WATERisLIFE

Entry Credits