As South Africa faced literacy roadblocks and book shortages in its libraries, Havas South Africa stepped in to help, working with Right 2 Read and “trolley guys” – who collect refuse in the area – to find lightly used books to restock a community library in Alexandra.
We spoke with John Davenport, Chief Creative Officer, Havas South Africa, to learn more about the campaign and why it’s so important for the region.
Why is this campaign so important? Is there particular need in South Africa for increasing the availability of books?
There is a huge shortage of books in South African libraries. Local government resources are so stretched that there often isn’t money to restock libraries in any meaningful way. Many libraries have received no new books in 8 to 10 years and roughly 1/3 of households do not contain a single book.
Can you talk about how you concepted this campaign?
Strangely enough the idea didn’t come from inside the creative department. We were talking about the charity Right 2 Read and how they wanted to restock the library in the underprivileged Alexandra area, and one of the people in finance mentioned that the “trolley guys” who collect recycling from the refuse people put out on rubbish collection day live in that area. They wondered if the wastepaper they pick up contained any hardly used books that people are throwing out because they had no room or were moving. Turns out they were right – living proof that ideas can come from anywhere in the agency!
What was the process like for bringing this campaign to life? Were there any major challenges or successes you faced?
The technical challenges seemed like they might be insurmountable, until we realised that simple location-based text messaging would do the trick – so that is the strategy we used to execute the campaign.
What has public reception been like so far? Any surprises or highlights?
The library we started collecting for asked us to stop bringing books because they had no more space for them! In the first week alone we collected 1000 books, all done by the refuse recycling guys who took matters into their own hands when it came to restocking their local library. No big corporations, no government involved. Just a community taking action to improve their situation.
Are you looking to expand the programme elsewhere?
Right 2 Read is active throughout South Africa. They see literacy as a fundamental human right – not a privilege. Without it, people are unable to engage fully with the modern world, forming a powerful obstacle to the advancement of disadvantaged people trying to extract themselves from poverty.