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40 days in Brazil…

Nazia Hussain + TIE + INATA + Boca do Lixo

Recife, March 2011
I’m Nazia, and I work as a planner at Ogilvy in London.
I run a bit of the agency called Cultural Strategy, which is all
about using cultural anthropology to understand people’s
lives better.
Being a TIE volunteer in early 2011 was deeply special. I’d
never been to Brazil before, so I was keen to throw myself
into a whole new cultural experience. I grew up in Bangladesh
and believe that the best kind of development is the kind that
delivers and leaves skills, rather than taking away local jobs.
That’s why volunteering my skills appealed so much.
And I love children. Living in lots of emerging markets has
made me a firm believer in education as the thing that will
make a difference, the education of young girls in particular.
So for me to go out and work for a grassroots charity aiming
to raise children’s literacy levels in Brazil by giving of my
communications skills was a perfect fit.
Who made it happen?
Philippa at TIE has been working with WPP for a few years now, and I was lucky enough to be
granted funding for a TIE placement by WPP. I was also heavily backed by Ogilvy both by being
given time off, management level support, and also local support through our Brazilian offices.
None of it would have happened without all of these wonderful people.

Jon Steel and Jeremy Bullmore at WPP; Philippa White at TIE; John Shaw and Russell Davies at Ogilvy
The project in a nutshell.
Boca do Lixo are, to use Philippa’s
words, ‘as grassroots as it gets’.

They are a cultural movement that

aims to raise children’s literacy in one
of the poorest corners of Brazil. The
kids they help live mostly in the favelas
of Peixinhos, just outside Recife.

They run a free library and educational

street events (like the one here) that
they want the Peixinhos community to
know about, support and engage with.
They needed to be heard.

So that’s what I went out to do.

My merry band.
All TIE communications volunteers are
given a local agency to work with for
the duration of the project. This means
that you get the creative, planning and
account support you need to get the
communications project off the

I was paired with INATA, an

‘experimental advertising agency’ run
by one of the local universities in
Recife. The kids had bundles of energy
and we had a great relationship.

They were so optimistic and passionate

– working with them made me lose ten
years’ worth of cynicism.
We had our challenges.

Clients who thought they knew what they wanted but realised quickly that
they didn’t.

Clients who didn’t (really) believe in marketing to begin with – normal in the
grassroots development world.

A client and account director (me) without a language in common!

An agency partner of twenty-one-year-olds with no experience in


Four teeny tiny weeks to build a brand from scratch and begin to
communicate it.
But we worked through them with
‘valores humanos’
One of the very first things we did during our kick-
off training day was to capture the values with
which we all wanted to work with each other.

Collectively, these then became the values of the

project. Although this felt a bit touchy-feely to me
at first, in fact it was one of the most humbling
lessons I learned from working in Brazil – that no
matter how difficult and stressful times get,
treating people as human beings remains the most
important thing of them all.

Perseverance, Collaboration, Respect, Team-

work, Listening, Thinking, Wisdom, Love,
Motivation, Honesty, Responsibility, Empathy,
Solidarity and Openness.
The key to success: the Project Plan

This was probably the most important bit of the

project. In the very first week, I got everyone
together to decide how we were going to do it,
and the resulting Project Plan set out, to the hour,
where everyone was meant to be at any given
time over the next month and what they were
meant to be doing.

With so many players involved (and so many of

them never having worked in a professional
context before!) perfect project planning was key.

It meant that I could forget about being

accountzilla for the rest of the month since
everyone had the same masterplan to refer to.
Very useful indeed.
The Project Plan in Action
Roughly, it was a communications development
project squeezed into four weeks, so not at all
unlike a pitch.

Week 1 – research
Week 2 – analysis and creative briefing
Week 3 – late nights and utter chaos
Week 4 – pulling through.

Our working sessions at INATA were full of

laughter, lots of hugs, and despite the
occasional frustration, always extremely
The brand challenge.
In our first prolonged discussion session with the client where we sat picking apart their brief,
we quickly came to two major conclusions.
1. Boca do Lixo’s key product, the library, Biblioteca Multicultural Nascedouro (BMN) was a
great product. It just wasn’t a brand.
2. The clients, Boca do Lixo, had a quite a confused notion of who their audience were. They
were trying to be everything to everyone, and were in danger of confusing their multiple
audiences through unfocused communications. So our very first task was to make clear
that while the library was for the children, our communications needn’t be – in fact, they
would be much more effective targeted at the adults who were the real decision makers,
the parents and teachers of Peixinhos.

That settled, our challenge was clear. We had on our hands a great product – the free BMN
library at Peixinhos was an obviously valuable counterpart to the extremely basic schooling
provided by the underfunded local public schools of the favelas. The Biblioteca was a space of
learning, creativity, and importantly, safety. But it was haunted by the negative perceptions of
poverty and violence surrounding the area of Peixinhos, and mired in the despair often felt by
the parents when it came to their childrens’ futures.
Our thinking.
We knew that the issue we had to solve was relevance. When it came to education as a whole,
everyone, from the poorest illiterate parents to the district school administrators, agreed its
immense importance. But when it came to the free library’s role in their children’s lives, they were
less clear. We had to give the Biblioteca a clear, relevant role in the lives of the Peixinhos
community if we were going to increase visits to the library. They just couldn’t see the value of
library visits in lives that seemed already so fraught. We established that this was the key cultural
tension we needed to resolve.

Then we moved onto the brand itself. Time and time again, the clients had told us that the
Biblioteca was so much more than just a library. And spending time with the little children of the
favela as they laughed and cried and whooped their way through the story-telling and the games,
the crafts and the songs, we realised that indeed it was. It was a creative space in which education
was considered holistically, where enjoyment and engagement were key. Above all, it was a place
that children came to to lose themselves in wonderful stories through books and readings – stories
that made them dream about their own futures.

From there, it was a clear that we needed to communicate the value of the kind of education that
the Biblioteca provided. So we decided to concentrate on the incredible power that storytelling
has – in teaching children life lessons, in allowing them to dream, and through imagination, letting
them turn today’s dreams into tomorrow’s reality.
In essence, this was The big ideaL™ in practice.
The big ideaL™ is Ogilvy’s proprietary planning tool to help uncover brands’ points of view on the world.

Cultural Tension: Brand’s Best Self:

Living in an area so poor The BMN is much more
and lacking in opportunity, than just a library. It’s a
it’s hard to see what creative space in which
tangible value a free children come to live in
library will bring to the stories – stories that
lives of the children in my inspire them to dream
community. about their own futures.

BMN believes the world would be a better place if we believed in the power of
storytelling to transform children’s futures.
The work so far
This poster on the right was in effect the
key visual for the campaign. The headline
reads ‘Once upon a time…’ and below,
‘Children dreamed, and wrote their own

The little girl in the poster is actually one of

the girls who loves going to the library, her
‘dreams’ representative of all the things
kids said they wanted to be – ballet
dancers, doctors, astronauts.

The parents we showed it to found very

emotive as a clear call to action. In a place
as robbed of hope as Peixinhos, it reminded
them that books, and learning, can indeed
open the door to a better future. It gave
the library a clear reason for being.
The identity of the library.
Testament to the confusion as to the library’s intended target, their logo had had a colourful,
child-like quality to appeal to the kids themselves. We quickly realised that the people we needed
to ‘sell’ to weren’t the children, but the parents and the teachers who could see little point in the
free library, as well as to district and state level authorities who could help their cultural
movement grow. It needed to be professional, demonstrating expertise, and clear about what
they did. Our resulting logo was a much needed evolution that came with a powerful new tagline,
Contando historias para transformar realidades. Telling stories that change realities.
The client reaction.
‘You helped us see
things about ourselves
‘We now finally that we could never ‘This will have
understand the have identified on our a huge impact
power of own’ for years to
marketing’ come’
‘This has been an
‘We love the thinking,
incredibly transformative
the chosen route and
experience for the whole
the work – but most
organisation, forcing us to
importantly, the
look really hard at
people of Peixinhos
ourselves to see what
love it’
we’re about’
The story spread.

As interest grew in around Peixinhos

in what we were doing, we gave
interviews and spread the word
around all our contacts.

The result was a full article in one of

Recife’s three major broadsheets,
highlighting how the expertise of
Ogilvy London was helping the
poorest communities in Peixinhos.

It was fantastic coverage that gave

the Biblioteca a great boost in their
public profile.
My biggest source of support.
The Mascaro family, who I was lucky
enough to live with for four weeks,
were probably the single biggest
influence on my experience in

Simply put, they opened my eyes to

a whole new way of living – through
their belief in togetherness, trust,
laughter, creativity and positivity in
facing life. I was seamlessly woven
into their family and introduced
regularly as their second daughter,
and when I left, it was with a very
deep and special understanding of
what it means to be Brazilian.
In retrospect, I can see I learned many a valuable

1. The power of positivity: believing it will all work out is fundamentally

more important than whether or not it actually does.
2. The power of demonstration: The best way to battle misperceptions
is by making a tangible difference.
3. Acceptance: I learned to accept varying levels of skill with equanimity
by remembering that people have more to offer than professional
4. The power of silent observation: I learned more from living with the
Mascaro family for four weeks than I would have done by reading fifty
demographic/trend reports on the Brazilian middle class.
5. Empathy: I learned that all good meetings start and end with hugs.
My blog became my best friend.

It was what I talked to every

night when I got home after a
hard day’s work on the project.

Getting sympathy,
encouragement and votes of
confidence from supporters all
over the world did wonders to
make the whole experience
even better.
And finally…

I learned an enormous amount

personally, mainly that the
pleasure of experiences like
these comes from the giving, not
the taking.

Seeing every day the hope and

joy in the lives of the kids of the
favelas who have so little, I
needed no further reminder that
happiness is a created state of
being, and one that’s entirely
up to us.
For further information…

Nazia Hussain
Ogilvy & Mather
10 Cabot Square
London E14 4QB
United Kingdom
+44 7917 829297

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