Could this be the most play-literate PR video ever?

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.

Child throwing ball at rocks

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.

12 responses to “Could this be the most play-literate PR video ever?

  1. Pingback: Could this be the most play-literate PR video e...

  2. The play videos are much more crucially powerful than they “play” themselves out to be. They should be aired 3 to 500 times a day on television. They are not only uplifting, they are marketing mental, emotional and physical health – without drugs!!!!! I’ve had enough of commercially driven self-esteem issue TV ads molding children into the next pharmaceutically enhanced, victimhood driven and “needy” generation. No child deserves to become “us”.

  3. Nice films Tim.

    They clearly have a direct lineage to the original Dirt is Good film ( used to promote Playday a few years ago under our sponsorship deal with Unilver and which drew hugely on our work and that of our members and partners (e.g. the Play Naturally research)

    Unilver pulled out of the deal after only one year, citing a change in strategic marketing policy in favour of sports, in spite of a very successful campaign which saw double page spreads in the Sun, and this film being shown at cinemas as well as on primetime TV. We estimated close to a million kids attended a Playday event that year, and it was a big part of the awareness raising that helped to promote the need for a government play strategy. Persil no doubt sold pretty well too.

    This makes viewing these new films a little bittersweet, when you look at the dire straits that Play England, and play services up and down the country now find themselves in. The whole Dirt is Good idea came out of discussions we and the Children’s Society had with their marketing team. Persil have run with the idea for many years and it must clearly, therefore, be paying huge dividends in sales.

    But, like many others, it would seem to have got what they wanted from the play sector whilst putting very little back.

  4. correction (last para) “…it would seem they have got what they wanted from the play sector whilst putting very little back”.

  5. These are positive video clips. Persil funded them. In an ideal world it would be an ethical, right on company but at least a multi-national is promoting play. We can avoid buying their products if we disagree with their products and work practices.

    We need every company, every organisation, every community, every school and every family to recognise that play matters and children’s right to play has to be given a higher priority in our societies. Give me these video clips over the recent “Toys-r-us” video clips any day!

    Can I also flag up IPA’s video “This is Me – Article 31 & A Child’s Right to Play” –

    Interestingly – although IPA is a play charity, there is a link to encourage the viewer to download the music. So I think we have to acknowledge that this is the way in which sponsorship works.

  6. Reblogged this on babyhood and commented:
    Dirt is good – and lets celebrate it – ironic coming from a huge brand of washing powder, and even more so considering the ingredients that Persil contains, which illustrates their lack of concern for children’s future, as it is seriously toxic to the environment. But that aside…well done to them for these videos, it is about time we looked at the world from a child’s perspective. Although cynical old me did wonder how many of the kids ideas were true and how many ideas were written by a copywriter!
    And they copied my idea! bah

  7. Bernard, Adrian, Juliet, babyhoodfilm – thanks for the comments. I recall the Unilever switch from play to sport that you mention, Adrian. It can be frustrating trying to build partnerships with corporates (though the same can be said of governments).
    It does appear that Dirt is Good will be around for a while yet, so maybe there will be new opportunities. As Juliet says, having the backing of a global multi-national is not to be sniffed at, even if right now it is just in the form of a following wind. And I’m not sure even a company the size of Unilever could be expected to fill the hole left by public sector cuts to play provision.
    Thanks too for the pointer to IPA’s video Juliet – also a nice one.

  8. Pingback: Play Based Learning | Pearltrees

  9. Tim, you’re right, of course, which is why I never tire of calling for serious government policy on play – only the public sector can deliver the physical and cultural changes needed.

    It’s just a bit galling to see a great film like this, with ideas that come from our sector, being used simply to sell soap powder. If there are opportunities to develop a more strategic partnership with them again, coordinating their messages with a broader campaign for change and putting some money into that work: all to the good. I hope someone can take advantage.

    And just to be clear, I’m not implying criticism of you or anyone else who may have worked with them, just a frustration that our national body, which first cultivated the relationship and jointly developed the whole concept with them, is now almost moribund, whilst Unilever continues to reap rewards from it.

  10. Reblogged this on Home Room and commented:
    “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. ” An interesting thought, though I think worth further investigation. How is play represented in this ad and what assumptions does it make about adequate, healthy childhood? What motivates corporations to give campaigns a social edge?

  11. Pingback: Freya's Resources | Pearltrees

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