I Love the Moth. Why Is Voss Underwriting Them?


The Moth is an organization that hosts events made of real stories told live on stage. Every event has a different theme around which story tellers weave their narratives. They’re one of my favorite podcasts. I love listening to the well-crafted stories told by writers, artists, and regular folk.

The stories are about 15 minutes long with simple narrative arcs, but their messages are often complex. Some of the most memorable stories for me are:

Mike Birbiglia talks about breaking up with his girlfriend while stranded on an island:

Steve Burns of children’s show Blues Clues talks about grappling with TV fame.

I admire the Moth’s storytellers. It’s not easy speaking in front of a large audience let alone captivating them with a great story without notes.

I often download their latest podcast on Sunday morning and listen to it while biking or jogging. The Moth makes their podcast free and sometimes has an ad at the end of the podcast. Usually the ad is for a product or brand that makes sense with The Moth’s branding and demographic. I envision that demographic to be highly educated urbanites ages 30 to 50 who are married and listen to NPR and skew liberal.

So I was surprised to hear an ad for Voss water in the last two Moth podcasts. Here at 15:08

and here at 17:30.

These ads are read by the host Dan Kennedy and include a reason why Moth listeners should buy the product or subscribe to the brand.

Here’s the script for the Voss ad:

Voss is the perfect pairing for your special dining moments. A night worth talking about always starts with Voss on the table because with Voss comes great conversation. And with a great conversation comes a story worth sharing.

Am I hearing this right? If I drink bottled water I’ll have better conversations and be a rockstar conversationalist?

Is this brand mismatch? The Moth is a non-profit organization where people share stories. Voss is a luxury lifestyle product in the form of bottled water. They call it artesian water which is simply water from an aquifer that’s under positive pressure. What’s so great about that? And even if this kind of water were all that, there have been allegations that Voss water is really just tap water in a sleek glass bottle.

But there is a silver lining. Voss has a foundation that helps people in Sub-Saharan Africa get access to clean drinking water. In 2010 the Voss Foundation spent $137,346 toward its cause. It seems like a drop in the bucket in solving Sub-Saharan Africa’s water problems, but it’s better than nothing.

I think of the situation as a bunch of people buying fancy bottles and transferring their wealth to a company good at marketing. This company then gives a portion (I have no idea what percentage because Voss seems to be a private company with no public financial statements) to helping people who have a hard time finding potable water.

Update: Since writing this post The Moth has not had anymore Voss ads in their podcasts. Yay.