OMO’s gold-winning campaign in last year’s WARC Media Awards offered a new take on integration. Tahaab Rais, Regional Head of Strategic Planning, FP7/MENA, explains how eBay, ambient, Periscope, a 23-hour Facebook Live ad and social media disrupted and engaged Arab parents in a quest to show them that dirt is good.

‘Dirt is Good’ is a long-established global platform for OMO (known as Persil and Surf Excel in other parts of the world), that has resonated with people pretty much everywhere in the world, without the need of a single tweak to the platform.

But the Middle East was an exception to this rule. The biggest barrier to landing the platform in this market was a simple but alarming insight; that there is no way a mother would truly believe that ‘Dirt is Good’. Because, rooted deep in mothers’ minds, reinforced by culture, is a belief that dirt is actually bad for children; appearing clean is a characteristic that is an essential part of Arab personality development and character-building. So how could we communicate this platform when the response against it was almost hostile?

In a world of big data, we chose the right data

Kids today in the Middle East spend less than an hour every day engaged in active play. However, this statistic alone was unlikely to cut through the clutter. Every day parents are bombarded with statistics regarding their children which quickly become white noise. To provoke parents and persuade them to get their kids off couches and beds, we needed to give the data a visual life of its own – by showing parents the reality of their kids’ lives.

A live, visual representation provoked parents and earned attention

We wanted to create a live, visual representation of kids’ lives today. So, we chose an upcoming and relatively untapped media format – live streaming – on familiar channels (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter) to help us disrupt the content out there and earn the attention we needed.

And to wake parents up to the fact that kids today are ‘the least active kids ever’ and spend on average 23 hours a day inactive, we created the longest cross-platform live-stream content; a 23-hour video on Facebook Live and an iconic live YouTube masthead, showing a kid doing absolutely nothing; well, apart from sleeping, playing video games, checking in on social, watching Netflix and hover-boarding his way to and from the kitchen. It was also live on Twitter via Periscope. The video was long and boring for a good reason, as its one purpose was to depict exactly what kids spend their day doing.

In an era of 6-second ads, an 82,800-second ad that was the centrepiece of our content strategy, earned people’s attention for, on average, five minutes. This amount of time spent watching and interacting with the brand’s content is an achievement in today’s era, where people strive for content stickiness.

Educating and supporting them was the actual end game

Our communication strategy was focused on being agile and responsive. Having anticipated negative feedback from parents, we had planned a fully-fledged, agile, responsive strategy to share why OMO was doing this and why kids’ activity was important. Simply provoking them was neither sufficient nor effective. With parents debating the inactivity of kids today online, we switched from provoking them, to helping them.

Since social media was the primary channel to directly provoke a response from parents around kids’ inactivity, we needed social media to educate parents as well as to drive an understanding of why ‘Dirt is Good’.

We partnered with a team of trusted child psychologists and doctors from kidsFIRST Medical Center (KFMC) to respond individually to people, online, in real time, explaining the importance of active play. They suggested activities to do with kids, reassured mums, answered all the questions they might have, and addressed their concerns.

Webisodes were created with more medical professionals on specific topics, helping parents overcome key challenges.

We also turned the tech addiction blame away from kids, putting the balls in parents’ court, through video content on social media of kids sharing with their parents that dirt is good; and if they aren’t encouraged to get off the couch, more of them will end up depressed, obese, or with learning difficulties.

Provoking parents at additional surprising touchpoints, earned more word of mouth

Ambient messaging in playgrounds drove parents online to find out more about the campaign through messages such as: ‘The least played on seesaw in history’, ‘The least swung on swing in history’, and ‘The least slid on slide in history’. And we turned eBay into an advertising channel by giving away kids’ swings and slides for free, to help encourage more outdoor play.

We didn’t start with television, we intended to influence it instead

Bucking the norms of traditional mass media, our campaign didn’t start with television. But the provocative subject matter did influence television content. The buzz and word of mouth was so significant that leading TV channels such as MBC included kids’ activity into its content programming on its most popular shows. Kalam Nawaem, a popular Arabic talk show, released for the first time an episode completely hosted by children, rather the usual famous hosts, who tackled this very subject.

So, with ‘The dullest ad in history for the least active kids in history’, a social-at-heart campaign that was designed to drive conversations, we achieved a discourse in Arab society about whether dirt is bad, or if it can actually be quite good for your children. The campaign generated an overwhelming response – sometimes negative – and that was exactly what we wanted. After all, what is changing a behaviour if not influencing people to move?