Pearson Case study The Alphabet Of Illiteracy [image] by FCB Inferno London, Weber Shandwick London

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The Alphabet Of Illiteracy [image]

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Industry Education, Charities, Foundations, Volunteers
Media Case study
Market United Kingdom
Agency FCB Inferno London
Chief Creative Officer Owen Lee
Senior Art Director Julia Ferrier
Copywriter Martin Mcallister
Creative Agency Weber Shandwick London
Director Chris Hogwood
Chief Creative Officer Owen Lee
Creative Director Stuart Lambert
Senior Art Director Julia Ferrier
Senior Copywriter Martin Mcallister
Production 1st Ave Machine
Released April 2016


Eurobest Awards 2016
Healthcare Health & Wellness: Education & Services: Education & Awareness (incl. Fundraising And Advocacy) Silver Eurobest

Credits & Description

Agency: Weber Shandwick London, United Kingdom
Client: Pearson
Product: Learning Company
Entrant: Weber Shandwick London, United Kingdom
Title: The Alphabet Of Illiteracy
Product/Service: Learning Company
Idea Creation: Fcb Inferno London, United Kingdom
Pr: Weber Shandwick London, United Kingdom
Production: Fcb Inferno London, United Kingdom
Managing Director, Consumer: Emma Thompson (Weber Shandwick)
Strategy and Creative Director: Stuart Lambert (Weber Shandwick)
Director: Chris Hogwood (Weber Shandwick)
Account Director: Josie Whittle (Weber Shandwick)
Account Manager: Olivia McCulla (Weber Shandwick)
Account Executive: Lucinda Walker (Weber Shandwick)
Account Executive: Lincoln Hill (Weber Shandwick)
Account Executive: Lauren Hall (Weber Shandwick)
Chief Creative Officer: Owen Lee (FCB Inferno)
Senior Art Director: Julia Ferrier (FCB Inferno)
Senior copywriter: Martin McAllister (FCB Inferno)
Head of Strategy: Chris Baker (FCB Inferno)
Senior Strategist: Nic Willison (FCB Inferno)
Business Director: Tom Kingham (FCB Inferno)
Account Director: Helena Georghiou (FCB Inferno)
Senior Account Manager: Olivia Pearson (FCB Inferno)
Account Manager: Charlie Griffith (FCB Inferno)
Broadcast Producer: Charlotte McConnell (FCB Inferno)
Broadcast Producer: Kate Grenfell (FCB Inferno)
Social Media Manager: Laura Visick (FCB Inferno)
Senior Interactive Designer: Nick Vassou (FCB Inferno)
Interactive Producer: Kit Peebles (FCB Inferno)
Chief Corporate Affairs Officer: Kate James (Pearson)
Vice President, Brand & Social Impact Strategy & Campaigns: Emilie Colker (Pearson)
Director, Social Impact Programs: Jen Young (Pearson)
Community and Digital Marketing Manager: Emma Buckle (Pearson)
Community and Digital Marketing Manager: Chris Treen (Pearson)
PR and Marketing Manager: Ivana Martinovic (Pearson)
Project Manager: Rochelle Bond (Pearson)
Website URL:
The Campaign
The campaign had one simple insight: while people understand, when prompted, that illiteracy leads to bigger problems, illiteracy itself does not resonate as a “cause”.
We had to shock people, politicians and media out of apathy if we were to go beyond raising awareness to inciting action.
The creative idea was to take something synonymous with reading and writing, something that embodies the building blocks of learning, something childlike and innocent – the alphabet – and give it a provocative, emotional twist.
In The Alphabet of Illiteracy, each letter highlights an issue that could be tackled if literacy was improved.
In our alphabet, A is for AIDs.
B is for bloodshed.
C is for child brides. And so on.
The ad agency used this to develop a 90-second video of an animated A-Z, featuring striking designs by sculptor Wilfrid Wood, sung to the tune of a modified "A You’re Adorable".
Creative Execution
We worked with Lily on a speech that would tell Project Literacy’s complex story in a compelling, accessible way.
We had one simple message: Illiteracy is the root cause of the world’s greatest challenges. And that if we teach everyone to read and write, we can rewrite lives.
On 23/2/16, Lily Cole delivered an impassioned speech to politicians, US ambassadorial staff, influencers and media at the Houses of Parliament in London. Big Issue founder Lord Bird told his uplifting story of growing up illiterate, taught to read in jail aged 16 by a guard.
Lily launched a petition, to be presented to the UN on World Literacy Day, 8 September, urging it to put literacy at the heart of every action to advance the Global Goals.
The event and Alphabet of Illiteracy video were supported by a paid social media campaign.
Next, we’re taking the story to the U.S.
The clever storytelling around the Alphabet of Illiteracy catapulted Project Literacy onto the media and policy agenda.
Since the launch, the UN has taken steps to put literacy at the heart of the sustainable development agenda, inviting Project Literacy to be part of its Global Literacy Alliance.
Borhene Chakroun, Chief of UNESCO Youth, Literacy and Skills Development, said: “This is how to capture the public’s imagination and create a call to action. The ‘Alphabet of Illiteracy’ is a sobering wake-up call…it proves why tackling illiteracy needs to be firmly on the agenda of governments across the globe.”
UK International Development Committee chair Stephen Twigg MP pledged to hold an enquiry into the role education plays in international development, with evidence from Project Literacy.
186 pieces of coverage, including BBC, Guardian, CNN, Channel 4, Huffington Post, Harper’s Bazaar.
•12.1 million video views
•Reach: 462 million
•14,352 petition signatures.
Illiteracy is the root cause of the world’s biggest problems, including AIDS, FGM, poverty and radicalisation.
The Alphabet of Illiteracy distilled decades of academic research and statistics into a story that gave a voice to the 1-in-10 people who cannot read or write.
Media-friendly assets and powerful creative content (12.1 video views) reached 462m within four weeks.
The UN has now taken steps to put literacy at the heart of the sustainable development agenda, inviting Project Literacy to be part of its Global Literacy Alliance.
We haven’t eradicated global illiteracy in a month, but it’s not so invisible anymore.
We took the powerful creative and elevated it into a robust, agenda-setting campaign.
Behind the creative lay a huge volume of academic research into problems from crime to disease to poverty. We knew that trying to explain this story in a compelling way to journalists would be a huge challenge.
Our strategy was to find a voice. Someone who could tell the story for us, authentically, and simply.
Actress, activist, entrepreneur and mother Lily Cole, who is outspoken on the importance of education, was the perfect ambassador.
But Lily needed a platform. Something that the media, and policymakers, could not miss.
As the UK was the launch market (it’s also bottom of the developed world literacy tables), Parliament – the birthplace of modern democracy – was perfect. The chair of the International Development Committee, Stephen Twigg MP, agreed to invite Lily to the House of Commons to give a speech.