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02 . 04 . 18

ANGFA: Redefining “hygiene content”

Words by: Print Power
A Japanese health company's Washable Book is creating behavioural change among kids and helping to save lives… using some pretty cool printing techniques
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At a glance:

  • The medium is the message – effect change by showing, not telling
  • Innovation isn’t about technology – it’s more a “way of doing”
  • The campaign has earned more than 1.5bn media impressions and boosted sales of ANGFA soap by 1,730%

The medium is the message – it’s a truth that plenty of brands pay lip service to, but few do well.

Not so Japanese health company ANGFA, who in January launched its remarkable Washable Book to teach children in Cambodia the importance of having clean hands.

The idea for the book was inspired by an unfortunate truth: according to UN estimates, 6,000 children in developing countries lose their lives every day as a result of infectious diseases transmitted via hands. So, in order to bring about behavioural change in rural and hard-to-reach areas of Cambodia, where internet access is limited and literacy rates are low, ANGFA’s agency, McCann Health Japan, turned to print – and subscribed to one basic principle: practice change, don’t preach it.

“We knew we wanted to create new experiences using traditional media,” explains Shunsuke Kakinami, McCann Health Japan’s group creative director. “We also wanted to create physical memories. So, it was crucial our campaign had that element of touch – and that we engaged with children on their own terms.”

The result? The world’s first picture story book – gifted to hundreds of children, together with a bar of soap – that used deceptively simple printing techniques to promote hand-washing… through hand-washing. Scrubbing the hands of the book’s characters using the soap provided revealed a series of colourful illustrations that helped to bring the tale (and the issue) to life – and succinctly demonstrated the life-saving benefits of good hygiene to an impressionable group of kids.  

Effective it may be, but is it innovative? Shunsuke thinks that may be missing the point.

“It absolutely is innovative, but high-tech, low-tech ­– it doesn’t matter to us. What does matter is that we’re interacting in a way that challenges our demographic. Print, more than any other format, is a simple, powerful and experiential medium,” he says. “Innovation isn’t about technology, it’s more a way of doing.”

ANGFA isn’t the only brand to achieve such an enviable purity of expression. Take the example of Mawbima, a Sri Lankan newspaper which, in 2014, successfully raised awareness of ways to prevent Dengue fever by infusing citronella essence – a natural mosquito repellent – into its printing ink.

And there’s Ikea’s “Pee Test”, which used the print format to create an accurate pregnancy assessment for prospective mums. Just pee on the paper, and if it’s a positive result, a discount on one of its cots would appear.

Perhaps campaigns that play to our senses work so well because, primitive though it may seem, touch isn’t only the first sense to develop, it’s also arguably the one that engages us the most on an emotional level.

The results speak for themselves. By conceiving and executing a Washable Book that “does” rather than “says”, McCann Health’s campaign has racked up more than 1.5 billion impressions and boosted sales of ANGFA soap by 1,730%. In fact, you could say it’s cleaning up in its sector…

Sometimes, folks, function trumps form.

Easter Egg:
Arranging the pages of the Washable Book side-by-side reveals a huge wall drawing reminiscent of Chōjū-giga, a famous set of 12th-century picture scrolls belonging to Kyoto’s Kōzan-ji Buddhist temple.

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