Detergent Brand Visits a U.S. Prison to Make a Startling Point About Outdoor Play

Global Spot for Persil Drops a Bombshell About Modern Kids' Playtime

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Persil, the Unilever-owned detergent brand also known in other markets as Omo, has shot an eye- opening docu-style film in a maximum security U.S. prison as part of its ongoing "Dirt Is Good" themed campaign.

The two-and-a-half minute "Free the Kids" spot, by MullenLowe London, was filmed by documentary maker Toby Dye of RSA Films in Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Indiana. Mr. Dye interviews prisoners about the importance of their time spent outside, and asks how they would feel if it were reduced to one hour a day. Their reaction is that it would be terrible -- and then the filmmaker drops the bombshell; on average, that's all the outdoor time a child has these days. The prisoners are clearly shocked and a prison guard aptly makes the point for the brand: if you're not putting the kids in the bathtub once a day, something's wrong.

The interviews were done with real inmates who volunteered to take part, and it took months of preparation to ensure filming could take place inside the facility. Mr. Dye said in a statement: "Everything in the film was shot for real with a tiny crew of five, under genuine documentary conditions."

The ad, which will run globally except in markets like the U.S., where the Persil brand is owned by Henkel, is part of an ongoing effort by the brand to encourage children to get outdoors. Previous work by MullenLowe has included creating dioramas of classrooms staffed by creatures such as frogs and snails.

James Hayhurst, OMO/Persil global brand director, Unilever, said in a statement: "We were shocked when we discovered that children were enjoying as little time outdoors as prisoners. This discovery also prompted us to think about ways we could help families rediscover outdoor play."

OMO/Persil is also partnering with U.K. community projects initiative Project Dirt to deliver Outdoor Classroom Day, a global initiative aimed at getting schoolchildren to spend a day learning outside in nature. Launching in the U.K., Brazil and Turkey, the campaign will ask parents to share their views on play and sign up their child's school to Outdoor Classroom Day via the website

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Mar 21, 2016
MullenLowe London
Chief Creative Officer:
Dave Henderson
Executive Creative Director:
Rich Denney
Global Creative Director:
Alex Okada
Production Company:
Toby Dye
Ben Porter
Research Producer:
Denise Castelli
Julian Eguiguren
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