Arts, Culture & Media

The quest for clean hands

VC went to the people who persuade us to wear a certain deodorant or use a certain fabric softener: we think they're much more adept at marketing than we realize. We wanted to research what it might take to make people wash their hands. (These companies have convinced us of a lot of products, so what are some of their secrets?) Understand what goes on in people's hands, so we're trying to document what happens to a typical woman in Ghana after she wakes up in the morning, and where hand washing might fit into her morning routine, where the cues for hand washing are. One of the big commercial companies helped us get access to a big advertising company in Ghana and we created a funny cartoon to endorse hand washing and how hand washing spreads germs, and everyone was talking about the ad for months afterwards. (That was really that new of a concept?) Well in Ghana people tend not to wash their hands with soap, so they have soap but the habit of hand washing with soap wasn't there. but after the campaign, the rate of hand washing had gone up by 13%, this was after a year. (Why do some public health campaigns work whereas others fail?) I think the first lesson is for those campaigns that don't do their homework, so when you want to try to promote condom use for example, you've got to make it pleasant, because it's such an unpleasant thing to do. We're trying to create new social norms, so you've got to create the belief that this is a norm. (Did you feel uncomfortable using some of these marketing techniques?) Our whole lives are shaped by marketing, but we decided we didn't want to use the more evil of these tools. So now our program is working in 20 countries with more working partners, both governments and ad campaigns and advertisers.

Player utilities

(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

Comments