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Awards Case Studies Social Purpose Case Studies Marketing

How Ogilvy's Harmacy is safeguarding Kenya's future


By The Drum, Editorial

December 4, 2023 | 5 min read

The incorrect disposal of medicines was causing major environmental and personal physical concerns in Kenya, but a campaign created by Ogilvy for Gertrude's Children's Hospital helped address the problem. Here is the award-winning case study.

Example of the campaign work

Kenyan households dispose of an estimated 1,800,000 kilograms of expired medicines every year, by throwing them in garbage bins or flushing them down toilets. This improper disposal of expired medicines causes serious environmental and health consequences as they can leach hazardous chemicals into our soil and water, contaminating the environment. The more immediate and dangerous problem that occurs when these medicines end up in landfills, is that they are often collected by waste pickers and redistributed and sold to underserved communities who are desperate for affordable treatment. Unfortunately, the consumption of expired medicines leads to antibiotic resistance, worsening illness and even death.

The Creative Idea

Every time we throw our expired or unused medicines away in garbage bins or flush them down toilets, we unintentionally contribute to the harm caused to the environment and, more importantly, people in affected areas who are desperate enough to resort to buying black market medication. To raise awareness among the public on safe disposal methods, we constructed The Harmacy; a pharmacy located in the country’s largest landfill, which was stocked with expired medicine that had been discarded and built to replicate common, unlicensed pharmacies in affected communities.

The Strategy

As 85% of Kenyans dispose of their medicine incorrectly, there was a necessity to educate the public on safe disposal methods and bring the harm they unwittingly cause to their attention. The solution was to educate the public via our DispoSafely campaign, allowing safe disposal at every Gertrude's Children's Hospital branch and pharmacy in Kenya. The pharmaceutical waste collected at these locations was then properly incinerated and disposed of by the hospital, per Kenyan Government and International guidelines. To drive people to these #DispoSafely locations (Gertrude's Children's Hospital Pharmacies), we first needed to adequately draw their attention to the problem; pharmaceutical waste doesn’t belong in household garbage bins and that waste, unfortunately, finds its way to underground pharmacies, not unlike our Harmacy.

The Execution

At Kenya’s largest landfill, located in Dandora slum, Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital constructed an ambient OOH structure; a mock pharmacy using materials found on-site and stocked entirely with medicine and pharma-waste intercepted, just before reaching the landfill. The Harmacy featured exterior signage, shelf displays, a make-shift aisle, and a checkout register. Banners outside The Harmacy gave facts on unsafe disposal in the region and informed visitors about the #DispoSafely program. On the day of our special build construction and activation, there just so happened to be a surprisingly large delivery of expired medicines, disposed of by a pharmacy, no less, which we intercepted and used to fully stock The Harmacy. This stock was obviously removed by our team and disposed of correctly. We then used The Harmacy event to launch #DispoSafely - a program that facilitated the collection and safe disposal of these potentially harmful medicines.

The Results

The Harmacy became Africa’s first successful public awareness and action campaign to educate the public on the correct disposal methods, reaching nearly half of Kenya's entire population. This led to the launch of #DispoSafely, a program that dispenses valuable information to the public and facilitates the collection and safe disposal of unused or expired medicine through Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital branches countrywide. This campaign is just three weeks old and we're looking to rapidly scale up as the year progresses. Since the first week of April, we've received coverage and attention from some of the region's leading outlets such as Kiss FM, Power FM, Hope FM, HomeBoyz Radio, Citizen TV, K24 TV and Look-Up TV.

Campaign Reach: 28,795,000 Earned Value: KES 19,500,000 For every KES 1 spent, The Harmacy earned KES 30 Online Impressions: 11,382,997 8/10 Kenyans polled agreed they would #DispoSafely

Further Context

Dandora is a slum area and is widely known for having the largest landfill in Kenya. The majority of waste created in Kenya ends up in landfills just like this one. Waste disposed of at these landfills is then scavenged by groups of waste pickers, looking for anything valuable to sell or consume. 85% (approx. 48 million) of Kenyans dispose of their medicine incorrectly, unaware of the consequences of their improper disposal due to the lack of existing public awareness programs. This leads to the collection and redistribution of the medications through underground channels and unlicensed pharmacies. With radio and TV (specifically local news) being by far the most consumed media in the country, we set out to create a brand message and built experience that would capture the media's attention and spread the word by reporting on these channels, promoting well-being for all to an otherwise unreachable audience.

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