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By Awards Analyst, writer

November 15, 2019 | 5 min read

FCB Inferno won The Grand Prix at The Drum Social Purpose Awards 2019 for its ‘StorySign’ campaign for Huawei. In this case study, the agency reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this important project.

The challenge

Huawei are the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer. The brand’s promise is to ‘push the limits of what is humanly possible’, and they challenged us to bring it to life in way that made a positive difference in society. We identified a human problem their technology could help solve.

There are 32 million deaf children in the world, and most of them struggle to read. This is because deaf children can’t learn phonetically, so they struggle to match words with sounds. This has a hugely negative effect on their futures, reducing their opportunities, impacting on their employability, future earnings, even their health. In fact, new research shows that it takes 21 years for deaf children to catch up with their hearing peers.

For this project, we agreed three objectives:

• Raise awareness of deaf literacy issues;

• Use mobile technology to open the world of books to deaf children;

• Improve Huawei brand perception.

Our response was the first global literacy platform for the deaf, StorySign, created by an alliance of international partners, including 11 deaf charities, Academy Award-winning animators, and the world’s leading publisher.

The strategy

Our research revealed the impact of deaf illiteracy throughout life. 90% of deaf children have hearing parents, most of whom do not sign and so can’t share bedtime stories. 57% of deaf students fail to achieve basic school qualifications. And fewer than 40% of deaf adults are employed.

The root of the problem is that deaf children struggle to read, because they can’t learn phonetically. Our insight - if we helped them link words with signs, it would hugely increase what is possible for them in the future. Huawei believes in the positive power of AI and its smartphones include an AI chip.

Our strategic approach was two-fold. Change the story of deaf literacy for a core audience of families with deaf children aged 0-5 (key for reading development). Secondly, improve Huawei brand perception with a broader global audience by showing AI solving a truly human problem.


The campaign

We created the first global literacy platform for the deaf – StorySign. A ground-breaking free app, StorySign scans the words in selected children’s books and instantly translates them into sign language, using the most advanced signing avatar ever. This helps the world’s 32 million deaf children learn to read and sign with their families, and lead happier, healthier lives.

Executing StorySign took an alliance of world-class partners. 11 international deaf charities ensured StorySign was designed with the needs of deaf children at its heart. Testing with families and schools resulted in an effortless user experience. Select the children’s book, hold your smartphone over the words in the physical edition, and StorySign instantly translates them into sign language through an avatar. Words are highlighted in sign language order to make that crucial link between words and signs. Huawei’s Kirin AI chip boosts traditional OCR technology. StorySign is more accurate, reads text at up to 45°, and works in low light for bedtime stories.

Oscar-winning Aardman Animations created ‘Star’, the most advanced signing avatar ever. Every detail appeals to deaf children, from her age (because children learn better from siblings), to her hearing aid (to destigmatise deafness). Penguin Random House, the world’s leading publisher, are adding their huge library of books, so deaf children can enjoy the same stories as their hearing friends.

Released in December 2018, available on all Android devices in 11 countries, StorySign opens up books to an entire generation of deaf children.

The results

StorySign has made such an impact for the deaf community that Huawei is keeping the story going, with a £375K donation to deaf literacy projects, launching the app in China, and more books. The camapign’s results have exceeded every objective:

Raise awareness of deaf literacy issues:

• 1.5bn+ global reach (target 604 million)

• 128m+ app film views (target 40 million)

• 1000+ pieces of international coverage (target 340)

• £11.4m estimated earned media

Use mobile technology to open the world of books to deaf children:

• Launched in 11 countries

• Supported by 11 international charities

• 52 more books coming in 2019

• Launching in IOS in 2019

Improve Huawei brand perception:

• 19.9% uplift within 2 months

“We believe that when you bring together human imagination with the power of our AI technology, we can make the world an even better place.” - Walter Ji, Huawei Technologies.

“This technology can change the future of an entire generation.” - Mark Wheatley, European Union of the Deaf.

“Deaf children should be able to read the same stories that their hearing friends do. We are opening our library of children’s books to deaf children via this innovative new technology.” – Joe Marriott, Penguin Random House

“StorySign is a crucially important thing that’s never been done before.” - Becky, mother of a deaf child.

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FCB Inferno

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