A couple of weeks ago the UK laundry brand Persil (known in many parts of the world as Omo) released a set of short videos called ‘Kids Today’. The aim is to give parents insights into the intrinsic value of play, using ‘point of view’ cameras to bring the viewer closer to the world as seen through children’s eyes. Here is the first, entitled ‘Play Face’.
The video sequences have some conventional scenes of children playing sports and ball games. But check what else is featured: tree climbing, slacklining, throwing a basketball to knock down a tower of rocks, ‘bordering’ on a zipwire (when two or more ride at the same time), a self-built tree swing, and several scenes of children jumping into open water. Adults are notable by their absence.
The captions make compelling reading too. Here they are in full:
Every child has a play face
When they’re giving it a go
When they are taking risks
When they’re going with the flow
When they’re living in the moment
It’s more than play
It’s life experience
How often do you see your child’s play face?
A fair number of corporate videos on childhood, play and learning have crossed my desk over the years. However, I cannot recall seeing one as ‘play-literate’ as this one. Its message is grounded in the intrinsic value of play and its meaning for children here and now. It is sure-footed in the way that it captures the spontaneity and energy of play. While actively celebrating risk, it avoids making any simplistic sales pitches about how playing might make children more resilient (or smarter or more confident, for that matter). It has real potential to make many parents rethink their attitude to free play.
The other videos in the ‘Kids Today’ set are worth checking out too. One is devoted to the theme of city kids. It makes a persuasive case – to policy makers as well as parents – for more child-friendly cities.
The videos are the latest expression of Persil’s longstanding interest in play, under the banner of its brand slogan ‘Dirt is Good’ (launched in 2005). They mark an exciting development of the campaign. Initiatives like this are not just about making consumers buy more product (although of course this is important). Corporate executives increasingly want their campaigns to have a social and environmental impact, as well as improving their bottom line. Intriguingly, Aline Santos Farhat – Global Senior Vice President at parent company Unilever – claims that the ‘Dirt is Good’ campaign had a direct impact on education policy in Vietnam, with the government subsequently supporting playtime/recess in schools.
In my view, the ‘Kids Today’ videos – some of which have been viewed over 250,000 times – are a potent resource for play campaigners and advocates (let me know whether or not you agree). The question for Unilever is what happens next. Nearly ten years after the launch of ‘Dirt is Good’, the time is right for the company to move the campaign beyond the hearts and minds of consumers, and take action to help create a more playful world for children.
Declaration of interest: Unilever is a client of mine. I have had some input into ‘Dirt is Good’ at various points over the years (and like to think this has had some influence on the campaign’s evolution and current direction). However, I have had no direct involvement in the commissioning or production of these videos, and am not currently actively involved in this or any other campaign by the company.