You’ve seen the pitch before: a video montage of Third World children shows them mired in poverty, barefoot in muddy streets and emaciated but for their distended bellies. The narration: a celebrity asking for your dollars. But when called upon to help, consumers often change the channel.
So several years ago, when Pampers teamed up with Saatchi & Saatchi to help Unicef to keep babies healthy, the companies aimed to find a more effective tack — and one more in keeping with Pampers’ comforting image. The newest part of that campaign, the first for the North American market, was produced with the goal of creating an emotional bond with the children in need without turning the viewers off.
“You see a lot of these Sally Struthers’ types of ads that show children in a sad way to get you to participate,” says Saatchi’s global cd Tris Gates-Bonarius. “You see them and you want to look away. And then you feel guilty about looking away. … I thought, how do I motivate people to want to be a part of this program?”
Launched last April, the North American program, 1 Pack = 1 Vaccine, was created specifically to help eliminate neonatal tetanus in Africa. (More than 140,000 babies and 30,000 mothers die each year from maternal and neonatal tetanus worldwide; that’s one child every three minutes, according to the Unicef Web site.) In partnership with Unicef, Pampers agreed to fund one tetanus vaccine — at the cost of about 5 cents each — for every pack of Pampers sold in the U.S. and Canada. Unicef believes the campaign can help eliminate neonatal tetanus in 12 African countries by 2010.
Initially scheduled to run April through June, the program was so successful, and deemed so important, that it was extended through August.
“When Westerners think of tetanus, we think of rusty nails,” says Gates-Bonarius. But, according to Unicef, “tetanus can be contracted during childbirth in developing countries, where women often give birth at home in unsanitary conditions without adequate healthcare. The disease rages through newborns within days of their exposure to the tetanus bacteria and almost always leads to a swift and painful death.”
For the campaign Pampers created a 60-second TV spot, “With Your Help,” which received a “standard” P&G rollout on national broadcast and cable TV as well as online, according to a company spokesperson. It was narrated by actress and new mom Salma Hayek, who kicked off the effort with an April 7 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“What I love about this program is that it’s so simple and everyone can participate,” Hayek told the Oprah audience.
The challenge for the TV spot, says Gates-Bonarius — currently based in Frankfurt, Germany, though the effort is out of Saatchi, New York — was cutting through the clutter of the myriad charities asking for donations, and showing how one person can actually make a difference. “You know you’re helping a charity, you’re putting money in a jar or sending checks off to places, but you don’t really know how,” she explains.
But neither did she want to slap viewers with the same negative type of pitch they’d seen for decades. So to create the spot, says Gates-Boranius, they needed to find a way to drive home that vaccines were needed without compromising Pampers’ soothing image. “It was a creative puzzle,” she says.
“With Your Help” shows a Western mother pushing her child in a stroller along a city’s sidewalks. Along the way she comes across mothers and their children from other countries, dressed pointedly in indigenous clothing. The children, healthy and beaming, either wave to or actually interact with the Western mom who, metaphorically, at least, has saved their lives.