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FCB Inferno launches blockbuster Pearson drive against global illiteracy

FCB Inferno is handling the launch campaign for Project Literacy, an initiative by education company Pearson to tackle illiteracy, which it sees as one of the world’s biggest problems, affecting one in ten people globally. Not all in the developing world either – 32 million Americans can’t read more than 70 per cent of inmates in US prisons can’t read above fourth grade level (typically nine to ten years old).

So illiteracy causes numerous problems and FCB has dramatised them in an A-Z ‘Alphabet of Illiteracy.’ One of the aims of the campaign is to persuade the UN to add tackling illiteracy to its goals.


Production by IstAveMachine, media by The Village Communications and models by Wilfred Wood/Red Knuckles.

FCB Inferno CCO Owen Lee says: “Project Literacy is the type of brief that advertising agencies crave. It’s a chance to use our marketing and communications skills to do good in the world. Global illiteracy is a highly complex problem deeply bound up in political, economic and cultural issues, but the idea for the campaign comes from the heart of the problem itself, twenty six little letters that can help solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

“By clashing the innocence of the ABC and Wilfrid Wood’s sculptures with some of worst problems facing humanity we hope to evoke conflicting emotions. The resulting campaign is a poignant and memorable body of work that we hope will make a meaningful impact in tackling illiteracy”.

Pearson vice president of brand and social impact Emilie Colker says: “The Alphabet of Illiteracy powerfully demonstrates how illiteracy underpins some of the greatest challenges facing humanity. The campaign leverages the emotion and equity linked to issues such as poverty, health, and gender inequality and links them to the inability to read and write because we know people see other issues as more urgent. Yet literacy is a huge part of the solution. Through the campaign we aim to get people to care about and take action to help solve illiteracy.”

It is indeed a good and important cause and clever of Pearson, facing a slowdown in its core US market, to back it.

FCB Inferno is very good at cause advertising of one sort or another – Sport England, teacher recruitment – and, although there’s more than a nod here to McCann Melbourne’s ‘Dumb Ways To Die,’ there’s no harm in that.

MAA creative scale: 8.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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