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.
Hayek narrates: "When you buy specially marked pack Pampers, you can help the world's babies in need because one pack of Pampers equals one life-saving vaccine. Together, we can help give babies a brighter tomorrow."
The ad was filmed on a soundstage in Los Angeles, which gave the agency access to a host of actors from around the world.
"Putting [these women and children] in her world shows how easy it is to make a difference," says Gates-Bonarius. "[Women see] it as something so tangible. It has really brought [the program] to life emotionally. Her purchase of a pack is specifically going to that vaccine."
The ad was directed by Leonardo Ricagni, an Uruguayan documentarian who has created other high-profile ads for Unicef, including one that ran during the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
The seeds of the 1 Pack = 1 Vaccine were planted seven years ago, says Kim Yates, brand manager for Pampers. That was when execs decided that "we're about more than diapering babies; we're about caring for all babies, for their happy, healthy development," Yates explains.
Eventually, that resulted in the partnership with Unicef. "The great thing," Yates adds, "is that Unicef's mission is [doing] whatever it takes to save a child and Pampers' is caring for all babies. ... The severity of the disease combined with the tangible way Pampers could help inspired the partnership."
That partnership began several years ago in Latin America. (At that time, the vaccines were not specifically mentioned in the ad work.) In 2005, Pamper's Belgian office picked up the campaign. In 2006, a wider effort was launched in the U.K. and in 2007 it was expanded to include all of Western Europe. By then Pampers was committed to helping Unicef meet its goal of wiping out tetanus around the world.
"The nice thing about a brand as global as Pampers is that we have the ability to learn from what works," Yates says. "When you launch a new product initiative, you do it once and it's done. But with this we have the chance to make it better, make it stronger, make it more effective every time."
For the Western European TV spot, rather than accost comfortable Westerners with dire images, the TV spot swaddled them with visions of babies resting comfortably to the dulcet tones of "Silent Night."
It was an appropriate pitch for the Christmas season launch, says Gates-Bonarius. And though there was no mention of Pampers' very specific goal, the narration explained that when you buy Pampers, a portion of the sale goes to help children worldwide. The cause-marketing campaign raised enough funds to exceed the target by 25 million vaccines. By the end of 2007, more than 40 million vaccines had been bought for children in the developing world.
Pampers is nearly at the end of its initial three-year commitment to the tetanus initiative, but Yates says the company will continue to work with Unicef on the effort. A fourth-quarter 2008 campaign is already under way in Europe with a TV ad that depicts infants approaching their first birthday. The spot is aimed at Gen-Y moms. A new North American effort is slated to break early in 2009.
"The program may change shape in look and feel over time," says Yates, "but we're committed to participating with Unicef to deliver vaccines."
6 months ago