Cannes Ad Fest: Simplicity of 'Savlon Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks' campaign

Washing hands with soap would seem to be an easy enough habit to inculcate, but ask any parent the answer would be quite surprising. This is even truer in non-urban areas where soaps are a luxury item and where children often spend a large part of the day, away from the supervision of their parents or guardians. This was the problem that Kolkata-based ITC and its agency Ogilvy & Mather chose to focus on for their campaign for brand Savlon. 

The brief was to break the cycle of apathy and accessibility that hampered cleanliness among children in villages. ITC chose to use Savlon, a brand that has adopted hygiene as one of its core values, to push through the message. It approached agency Ogilvy & Mather India for an effective way to push its plan forward without being preachy or impractical with the solution. 

Why the effort gains importance is because of where India stands in terms of hygiene among children. A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that India accounts for the second-highest death rate of children who are less than five years of age in South-east Asia, due to poor hygiene, sanitation and environmental factors. The report adds that India fares far worse than China and is among the world’s top 35 countries with the highest death rate among under-five children due to an unhealthy environment. “National behaviour change (with) handwashing programmes in India and China would produce large economic gains from reduced diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections such as a 92-fold return to investment in India and a 35-fold return to investment in China,” the report said.

Savlon’s campaign focused on hand hygiene among children. For one clean hands are a key component of an overall healthy lifestyle, and secondly, it helped the company fold its brand objective into the larger national Clean India mission. 

The solution was first formally tabled on Children’s Day last year (November 14) and was called ‘Savlon Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks’. The campaign infused a product that most kids are familiar with, chalk sticks, with soap granules. The idea integrated neatly into the lives of children, driving home the message of hand hygiene cleverly. That the chalk sticks were an inexpensive solution to the problem was not lost on Ogilvy and its client ITC, allowing them to push the innovation aggressively in schools.

The product was conceptualised by the creative team of Ram Hariharan, Nishant Jethi and Mahesh Ambaliya at Ogilvy. The powder from the chalk sticks, acts as soap the moment it is placed under water. “The reason why the idea clicked so well was because it was a creative solution to a very real problem. Kids in rural areas use chalk and slate in school to write. The Savlon chalk sticks act as a regular writing instrument during class and the chalk dust that sticks on to their hands as a result converts into soap lather the moment kids rub their hands under water,” said Kainaz Karmakar and Harshad Rajadhyaksha, executive creative directors at the agency’s Mumbai office.

On the campaign trail
* Launched in November last year, ‘Savlon Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks’, a campaign created by Ogilvy & Mather India for ITC offers an interesting and easy-to apply solution for children’s hygiene in small towns and rural areas
* The solution is a chalk stick infused with soap granules, a regular class room tool doubling up as a soap bar. Children use the chalk sticks during class and the dust that settles on their hands acts as soap when placed under water
* The product was easily adopted by children and the desired objective of keeping their hands clean was neatly integrated into their daily lives. As an inexpensive solution, it was easy for ITC and Ogilvy to push this in schools 

* ITC has reached one million children in over 2,000 schools with this initiative. It got Ogilvy seven out of its total nine-metal-haul at the Cannes Ad Fest 2017 

In a statement, ITC said that ‘Savlon Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks’ was an integral part of the Savlon Swasth India Mission, a programme designed to encourage behavioural change towards washing hands among children and adults. This mission has already reached about one million children in over 2,000 schools. 

Sameer Satpathy, chief executive, ITC’s personal care products business, said, “In line with ITC’s core philosophy of putting India First and creating value for society, Savlon Swasth India Mission seeks to reinforce the company’s ongoing efforts in sanitation and hygiene education in India. We are happy that the innovation (Savlon chalk sticks) has been appreciated globally.”

At Cannes this year, ‘Savlon Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks’ walked away with two gold, one silver and four bronze Lions, giving Ogilvy seven of its total nine metals. That the agency attached a box of chalk sticks with its entry form for the festival perhaps helped further their case with the Cannes jurors who got a first-hand look and feel of the solution.  
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