The Tweeting Potholes

Case Study 2


Photo 1. The Tweeting Pothole in Panama City, photo credit Cisco.


The Tweeting Pothole campaign was started in Panama City by TV show Telemetro Reporta, a local news show that is known for publicizing urban repairs and shaming politicians into action. The TV station’s parent network commissioned the project on behalf of its audience and teamed up with ad agency P4 Oglivy and Mather to create the ongoing campaign. The city of Panama is a rapidly growing economy with beautiful skyscrapers, however, the budget for the roadways has not kept up with the growth of the city. “It would seem that in a rush to build a modern city, Panama forgot to take care of its existing streets, creating a contradiction of modern buildings and damaged streets,” the show’s promo declares. “This is not amusing for the people that drive on the streets every day.” There are huge crater like pot holes all over the city and the government officials in charge of the roads have made no effort to fix them. The TV show has raised awareness both locally and nationally, effectively putting the government officials in the spotlight to respond to the community crisis. The campaign started in April of this year and will continue until the worse potholes in the city are fixed.

Background of Agency

The ad agency P4 Oglivy and Mather was established in the 70’s in Panama City. They are a unique agency in that they are one of the few local ad agencies in Panama, most marketing in the area comes from foreign agencies. The founders were a group of young entrepreneurs who wanted to create something different in advertising through innovative methods and new concepts and techniques. This ideal is continuing to drive the agency toward growth in marketing and creativity that extends beyond Panama.


Photo 2. Potholes are an understatement in some cases.


Photo 3. The devices in a crater pothole.

Goals of Campaign

The goal of the campaign is to make government officials responsible by creating an awareness so big that the potholes cannot be ignored any longer. The idea is to use social media as a way to troll and irritate key officials into action. The agency created a device that is placed into the worse potholes in Panama City roadways, when a car falls into the hole and runs over the device a tweet is sent to Panama’s Ministry of Public Works’ Twitter page. The physicality of using the potholes themselves to complain about the issue is a unique way to bring the word on the streets in front of government officials. The devices align with the ad agency’s goal to be innovative using technology in advertising.

The goal is also to create tweets that do not simply complain or critique, but communicate in a lighthearted and good humored approach when the devices send messages that ask the potholes to be fixed. This approach generates a fun and engaging campaign that turns the potholes into characters with a funny personality. The campaign is aimed toward creating a link between the community and local officials, causing a form of transparency between community and government using social media. The public can join in on the conversation the potholes are having with government officials and have their responses seen and responded to. Another goal is to be able to track the results of the campaign. A digital map of the roads in Panama City creates a way to track the potholes that have not yet been fixed, it is also a key performance indicator showing the results of the those that have been filled in.

Campaign Channels

The Tweeting Pothole campaign is designed around the social media mix involving relationship development in social communities through mass media. The objective of the campaign is to create conversation, collaboration, and the sharing of experiences and resources to fix Panama City’s roadways. The vehicles used in the campaign is Twitter and Television.

The campaign is primarily focused around the advantages of Twitter’s social media platform, creating an open, real time, conversation to generate mass media attention. The Twitter account El Hueco Twitero (the Spanish name for The Tweeting Pothole) is used by the ad agency to correspond with the Minister of Public Works. The Twitter account of the Minister of Public Works, MOP de Panama, receives automatic tweets from the devices when they are run over.


Photo 4. The Tweeting Pothole’s (El Hueco Twitero) twitter profile photo, representing an angry pothole.

Another source that is being used in the campaign is Panama’s TV news show Telemetro Reporta. The TV show draws the attention of local residents to use social media as a way to make sure their individual concerns over the numerous potholes are being seen by local officials and others within the community. The TV show also creates a visual and auditory scene to the issues the potholes cause through interviews with people driving the roadways and from government officials.


Video 1. A video the ad agency created giving an overview of the campaign.


How the Campaign Unfolded

The first step in the campaign was to place devices in the potholes around Panama City that would automatically send out signals when they were run over by a car that fell into the hole. A team of two people sit next to each deployed device, monitoring the impacts over a Bluetooth connection and send the signals from the devices to the agency’s headquarters where they are turned into hashtag tweets. Some of the tweets are prewritten, but some are instantly created from the narrative wit of agency employees (Smithsonian). The tweets are then sent from El Hueco Twitero to MOP de Panama Twitter accounts. The teams place the devices in the holes, then move them every few days to different potholes in streets of Panama City. Preloaded messages include “Fix me! I’m endangering lives!,” “I feel horrible. I just caused tire damage to an old lady’s car,” “Hit me baby one more time. OK no, just avoid me,” “Tru…ck…whe…els…a…re……me…it…hu…rts…” and “If I can wait a year to watch Game of Thrones again, I can wait for @MOPdePanamato to fix me” (Potholes).



Photo 5. The team members waiting nearby for cars to run over the devices so they can send a signal to the agency office to be turned into a tweet.



Photo 6. The hashtag disk (a durable, puck-shaped pressure sensor) is placed inside the pothole and when it senses activity sends a signal to a small wireless network module placed nearby that is then transmitted to the ad agency. The total cost for the ten devices was about $60,000 (Huffington).



Photo 7. The device generates humorous tweets to the Minister of Public Works.


The local community is interacting with the Tweeting Pothole campaign. The social media outlet gives the average person a voice to the government. Tweets of animated and humorous photos of pothole scenes, entertaining comments, and requests for their own local potholes to be fixed are filling Panama Minister of Public Works’ Twitter feed. The following are examples of tweets sent to the Minister of Public Works from drivers, “The street leading from the San Miguelito bridge to the university looks like the MOON!! The concrete is cracked and sunken,” “At the hospital, there are two potholes in front of the pharmacy that look like the entrance to the world of Mario Brothers,” “My next car will be a tank,” “My baby is going to be born blurred due to so much shaking”.

citizen tweet2

Photo 8. Members of the community tweet humorous Photoshoped images of the potholes to the Minister of Public Works.


citizen tweet

Photo 9. Some images tweeted to the Minister of Public Works show the dangers of the potholes.


citizen tweet3

Photo 10. Members of the community tweet humorous images of the potholes to the Minister of Public Works.


dirt video

Photo 11. In line with the light hearted, fun approach, the Tweeting Pothole even tweets songs about dirt from english bands. The translation reads “I identify with this song #TheStooges @MOPdePanama I feel like the song says… DIRT :(“.



Photo 12. Translations of tweets in Spanish sent to The Tweeting Pothole and Minister of Public Works. Notice the humorous approach.



Photo 13. Not all the tweets are humorous, even rural roads outside of the city are getting attention.


current tweets 2

Photo 14. This screen shot shows recent interactions between the Tweeting Pothole and the Minister of Public Works in the country’s native language.


A digital map was created to track the progress of the campaign. The interactive map is a way for the community to see the results to their tweets to the government. This form of forward tracking that was set up prior to the campaign launch aids in accurately reporting the responses to the public. There are a number of locations that have already been fixed, as the potholes are fixed they are taken off the map. Currently there only nine potholes in downtown Panama City according to the Vice President, at the ad agency.


Photo 15. The ad agency created a map of the worse potholes that still haven’t been fixed.


Comparability to Similar Campaigns

This type of campaign could work in other cities, but only at a high cost. The campaign in Panama City is exorbitant due to the cost of the devices, the time of employees to manage and create tweets, and copyrighted material. The campaign is unique, however, because of the involvement of local news station Telemetro Reporta, which is instrumental in tracking the government’s progress outside of Twitter. Combining the two channels of social media and TV is causing global awareness.

The success of this campaign, however, has inspired similar campaigns like #Nationalpotholeday in the United States. A month after the Panama City campaign started, the campaign for National Pothole Day started in the U.S. where communities are enthusiastically creating awareness for their own local roadway issues. People are encouraged to take photos and upload them to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using a hashtag with their city’s name.

Measure of Success

Internal Factors

The success of the campaign can be seen on the Tweeting Pothole’s Twitter page through the number of interactions between the community and the government officials. The Minister of Public Works responds back to the community using twitter, effectively creating a conversation through social media. This campaign is a great illustration of how crowdsourcing can cause change in government reactions. Interaction metrics show that in less than a month El Hueco Twitero had 5,000 followers, 7,000+ interactions, 12 million potential reach, and 30 million impressions. Today, followers have grown to almost 7,000 while interactions and reach continue to grow worldwide. This campaign is primarily measured by impressions generated through social media. Impressions are valuable returns on investment. Impressions lead to changes in awareness, comprehension, attitude and in this case, a large audience to Telemetro Reporta. In response to the success of the campaign, the community is still posting photos of potholes in their neighborhoods in the hope that the Minister will see them and continue to fix potholes around the city.



Photo 16. The Tweeting Pothole’s Twitter page metrics in November of this year.


current tweets

Photo 17. The most recent photo post concerning unattended potholes in Panama.

External Factors

The most evident form of social media return on investment from the campaign is the fact that potholes throughout Panama City are disappearing. Results were seen on the first day of the campaign. In the first hour of the campaign, fifty tweets were sent to the Minister of Public Works as motorists drove through potholes and triggered the devices. The Minister had a pothole fixed immediately located in a heavily traveled roadway near a newly constructed metro railway station. Three days after the tweets began pouring into the Minster of Public Works’ Twitter feed the Minister, Ramon Arosemena, appeared on Telemetro Reporta’s evening news broadcast to discuss the problem regarding the state of the potholes and what was being done to fix them. The official gave credit to the campaign for raising awareness of issues on the roadway and blamed the potholes on poor construction and a lack of approved funds to fix the problem (CNET).

Twitter’s Vice President of data strategy, Chris Moody, also gave a public appearance accrediting the campaign for social media that, “Can cause government change by driving over something as mundane as a pothole” (Video 1). People from India, Ireland, the UK, and South Africa are requesting the technology and campaign model to use in their own streets after seeing the success it created. The agency’s video of the campaign was also in the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where it short listed in two categories, response/ real time activity and use of social audience in a direct marketing campaign (Cisco).

Continuing Campaign

The campaign is continuing to reach its goals from earlier in the year and there is no set date of devolvement. There does not appear to be an adjustment to the campaign occurring as it progresses, however, it is possible that the Tweeting Pothole campaign could inspire similar awareness campaigns involving community concerns. It has, after all inspired similar campaigns for fixing road potholes throughout the world.




The Tweeting Pothole

Telemetro Reporta

Ad Agency P4 Ogilvy and Mather

Telemetro Reporta Promo


Minster of Public Works Twitter

Pothole Map

The Tweeting Pothole Twitter



Huffington Post


Vice President















The Tweeting Potholes

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