‘H for Handwashing’: Inside MullenLowe’s entry for Cannes Lions

Sarvesh Raikar, Regional Creative Officer, Lowe Lintas, sheds light on how the agency roped in author Ruskin Bond for creating Lifebuoy’s popular and purposeful campaign

e4m by Kanchan Srivastava
Published: Apr 21, 2022 8:36 AM  | 4 min read

With excitement for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2022 building up, Indian agencies are putting their best foot forward to win accolades at the prestigious event. The festival is slated to be held from June 20 to 24.

One of the names in the running is MullenLowe Lintas Group, which has nominated its popular and purposeful campaign – Lifebuoy H for Handwashing, an agency official told e4m.

The Group has worked with Lifebuoy from the Hindustan Unilever Group. The campaign shows the brand’s commitment to hygiene education during the COVID-19 pandemic when handwashing was as important as ever.

Campaign Link: https://www.lifebuoy.in/h-for-hand-wash.html

‘H is for Handwashing’ is a multi-year digital campaign comprising alphabet books, songs, activity book, cartoons and funky stickers. The idea is to educate children about the importance of handwashing. The highlight of the campaign is an alphabet book designed by author Ruskin Bond. This is an attempt to change the way children have been learning the alphabet for years – A for apple, B for a ball. This book tells them A is for adventure, C for clean, G for germs, H for hand wash, S for soap, and so on.  

“The initiative is now in its third year and will continue to reach more governments, organizations, influential people and children to help forever instil the lifesaving habit of handwashing,” Sarvesh Raikar, Regional Creative Officer, Lowe Lintas, tells e4m.

Raikar is part of the creative team that has been leading the Lifebuoy campaign for HUL.

Sarvesh Raikar

The idea

Several kinds of research showed that the handwashing rates were dropping even in the middle of the pandemic, a time when the whole world was talking about the importance of handwashing. “We realized that the need of the hour was to bring about a systemic change so that handwashing as a practice became a lifelong habit,” Raikar noted.

“We toyed with how to make handwashing a lesson the world doesn’t forget? Then came the simplest and most scalable idea: ‘H for Handwashing’. The idea is simply this: Lifebuoy wants to fundamentally change how the letter ‘H’ is taught. No longer will ‘H’ stand for Horse, Hat or even Home. ‘H’ must stand for Handwashing,” he explained.

The Strategy

The campaign was targeting pre-school children, aged between three and five, and younger primary school children. “At this age, they start to learn the language, objects around them, basic concepts and differentiate the right from the wrong,” Raikar said, explaining why the campaign chose kids as target audience.

The insight of the campaign was rooted in not only a consumer but also a scientific truth, he pointed out. “The first lessons of life are the ones that are hardcoded in us. UNICEF’s early childhood development research demonstrates that supporting the right interventions in the early years of life significantly bolsters development. Early learning and language skills go hand-in-hand in establishing patterns and memory.”

The Execution

New alphabet books were developed by Ruskin Bond and 2012 World Poetry Slam Champion Harry Baker.

“If we could not buy media placements, we would create our own unconventional media. Partnering with leading kid's content creators such as Sesame Workshop and Oxford University Press, Lifebuoy created educational materials like books, posters and activity playbooks. The new ABC songs in multiple languages did wonders,” said Raikar.

The Group reached out to our audience through digital, fun, interactive handwashing games and got governments of over 10 countries to adopt and integrate the movement into their school curriculum, while we continued working with 66+ NGOs across the world to communicate our proposition.

The group also took concrete steps to promote the message across the world through multiple interventions with celebs, schoolteachers, NGOs and policymakers.

It even hosted the World’s Largest Virtual Classroom featuring Elmo (a red Muppet character on the children's TV show Sesame Street) in which kids, parents and educators of 35 countries participated.

The Impact

The campaign drove significant awareness, reaching 11.8 million children, with support from NGOs, governments and influencer partners worldwide. 

“The biggest victory is that we persuaded governments to change a century-old curriculum. The Delhi government in India and the Department of Basic Education in South Africa along with other countries made all efforts to advocate “H for Handwashing'' making our educational materials reach thousands of schools,” says Raikar.

According to the creative officer, the campaign garnered a total estimated reach of 250+ million (social media + earned media) and won the support of more than 100 celebrities and key opinion leaders, including F1 team McLaren and IPL players, and earned an estimated PR value of €2.7 million.

The World’s Largest Virtual Classroom featuring Elmo from Sesame Workshop had participants from over 35 countries and broke the Guinness World Record for most live viewers, which is a first for the brand.

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