How HP Turned Unwritten Stories of Illiterate Brazilians Into Books Printed in Real Time

With help from Google Speech

Imagine if there were an easy way for people who can't read and write to share their life experiences with the world. HP and agency AlmapBBDO took a crack at coming up with one, focusing on some of the 13 million illiterate individuals in Brazil, as part of a touching new campaign called "Magic Words."

First, AlmapBBDO sourced 30 such people from around the country, including rural areas and big cities like São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. Then, it used Google Speech's voice-recognition software to transcribe their stories, and publish them in a paperback book, created using an HP printer. A documentary followed the effort, and retold it in documentary format.

Meanwhile, the brand also created a special photo-booth version of the gimmick—allowing people to take snapshots of themselves, and turn them into postcards to loved ones, containing messages dictated to and printed by the machine.

At its heart, it's a beautiful idea—simple technology, applied in a meaningful way. The case study video, which features characters rapping about winged snakes and courage and home remedies, is effective at evoking warm-and-fuzzy feelings around the brand.

And it's particularly laudable for providing a platform to a population that by and large is excluded from public view, and hard pressed to advocate for itself, while also bearing an outsize proportion of society's ills—a point illustrated by the most depressing alphabet song ever, which publisher Pearson's Project Literacy initiative released earlier this spring.

But the fact that the core product HP is using to hawk its wares—Google Speech—was actually created by a newer shinier Silicon Valley giant is also telling of the times. Printing a book or a postcard risks seeming anachronistic in an age where it might ostensibly be easier, if not as quaint, to record a mini-film and beam it out to a single recipient, or to the wider internet.

To be fair, smartphone penetration in Brazil is only at about 41 percent, according to 2015 Pew Research Center estimates, even if it's climbing steadily each year, according to Statista. And in some ways that's besides the point. Even when video-grams replace the written word all the world over, there will still be something nice and intimate about picking up a dead-tree book, or receiving a postcard from a faraway friend—assuming there are still postal services around to deliver them (and trees, for that matter).

Credits Magic Words
Company: HP Inc.
Title: Magic Words
Product: Ink Advantage Ultra
Agency: Almap BBDO
Partner/Chief Creative Officer: Luiz Sanches
Executive Creative Director: Bruno Prosperi
Creative Director: Marcelo Nogueira, Pernil, Benjamin Yung Jr, Andre Gola,
Digital Creative Director: Luciana Haguiara
Head of Art: Pedro Burneiko
Art Director: Pedro Burneiko, Luciano Lincoln, Renato Jun Okida, Nando Sperb,
Tiago Padilia
Copywriter: Luciana Haguiara, Daniel Oksenberg
Creative Technologist: Renato Jun Okida
UX: Caroline Kayatt
Agency TVC production: Vera Jacinto, Diego Villas Boas, Fernando Yamanaka
Technology Director: Eduardo Bruschi
Project Manager: Mayra Otsuka
Content Director: Chris Melo
Photographers: Gabriel Bianchini, José Cabaço, Ale Charro e Samuel Costa
Film Production: Bando Studio
Director: Leandro HBL
Executive Producer: Marcela Sutter
Photography Director: Vagner Jabour
Editing: Guilherme Tensol / Lucas Rangel
Finalization: Rudá Cordaro
Audio Production House: Satélite
Technology Production House: The Goodfellas
Account Services: Filipe Bartholomeu, Juliana Janot Vilhena Nascimento, Thamy
Alegria Ortiz e Stéffano Coelho
Digital Integration Director: Kauê Lara Cury
Public Relations: Tiara Vaz, Anna Pires (In Press)
Media: Carla Durighetto, Fernanda Maia e Paula Kosugi
Approval: Nara Marques, Eduardo Portillo e Shuchi Sarkar