With technology front and centre of modern life and success in adulthood more uncertain than ever, parents and educators are understandably emphasising academic success and achievement to prepare children for what lies ahead. But this is coming at the expense of something else: play. Real, outdoor play that is being squeezed out of children's lives with other demands. In fact, Persil found that children were spending as little time outdoors as maximum security prisoners.

Persil believes it’s time to reclaim childhood. Edelman was tasked with inspiring parents to get their children outside and get dirty, aligning with the history of Persil’s beloved tagline ‘Dirt is Good’. Edelman aimed to get parents to consider how much time their children were spending in front of screens, their children’s limited freedom outdoors and the ‘real play’ time sacrificed for more structured activities.


Edelman led the global purpose and PR strategy for Persil’s Free the Kids campaign. Edelman Intelligence, Edelman’s specialist research arm, conducted primary global research of 12,000 parents across key markets to provide additional insights. The study confirmed children were spending as little time outdoors as prisoners, which served as the human truth for the film and key visual creative, underpinning the entire campaign.

Other key discoveries were that eight out of ten parents (78 per cent) admit that their children often refuse to play without some form of technology being involved. A similar number (80 per cent) report that their child prefers to play virtual sports on a screen inside rather than playing ‘real’ sports outside. Though Persil supports play in all forms, it became clear the brand needed to focus on rebalancing the types of play children are getting each day, specifically on “real play” that involves getting out and getting dirty.

Edelman partnered with Sir Ken Robinson, a leading global expert in creative education, as the global spokesperson in his first-ever brand partnership. His credibility in the creative education space created media intrigue and drove interest and debate for the public as he championed the issue with the brand. He participated in key media interviews and Edelman worked with Robinson to host Persil’s first ever Periscope.

Alongside this, Edelman worked with key markets Brazil, Turkey and the UK to create local partnerships with parenting forums, organisations and influencers to share the importance of real play with parents and get their direct feedback on how to get their children playing outdoors more. To continue to build global awareness, markets around the world participated in a one-day Outdoor Classroom Day in partnership with UK-based NGO Project Dirt and Keep Britain Tidy, to demonstrate play’s importance throughout a child’s day.

Edelman worked with the Unilever team and partner agencies to conduct real-time analysis of digital activity to identify online influencers who could be leveraged to sustain buzz. Edelman secured key partnerships with UK-based celeb-parents Giovanna Fletcher and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. In addition, Persil partnered with Twitter to host the first Twitter Moments campaign for Unilever, generating dialogue across the platform with the trending hashtag throughout the day.

Edelman provided content in a new campaign hub to provide parents and educators ways to enable real play for their children. This included updating www.dirtisgood.com with relevant articles surrounding the topic of child’s development.

A Movement Has Begun

Parents around the world have been posting pictures of their time outside through the hashtag #dirtisgood and sharing their tips on how they get their kids playing every day.

The campaign resulted in over 293 pieces of coverage, with a potential reach of 58 million impressions and #dirtisgood trending on Twitter.

The dedicated Dirt Is Good website reached nearly 20,000 visits within the campaign’s initial launch phase last year through media and social engagement.

Over 3,354 schools globally participated in the first Global Outdoor Classroom Day. Involving 481,261 children in 51 different countries.