How a Sri Lanka newspaper used its ink to fight disease

Working with Leo Burnett Solutions of Colombo, Sri Lankan newspaper Mawbima developed a mosquito-repelling ink, part of a CSR effort to raise awareness of how to prevent Dengue fever.

The work described here won Gold in the PR category at Spikes Asia.

Background

In 2013, Dengue, the deadly mosquito-borne fever reached epidemic proportions in Sri Lanka. Infecting over 30,000 people, the disease had taken many lives, including those of young children. ‘Mawbima,’ an up and coming mass-market newspaper, saw an opportunity to make a difference. The newspaper wanted to educate middle and lower-class Sri Lankans on the seriousness of the Dengue epidemic, and to make them realize that the first step to avoid being infected is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, especially in the morning and evening.

Execution

Leo Burnett Solutions of Colombo came up with the idea of mixing citronella essence, a natural repellent, with ink, to create the world’s first mosquito repellant newspaper. Mawbima’s campaign began with print ads and social media as well as posters with bus stop posters printed with the mosquito-repellant ink.

The agency created letters in the style of the Mawbima masthead. Each character stopped a dengue mosquito from passing through. These letters were then used in press ads as well as posters at bus shelters, where they were printed with the mosquito-repellent ink. The paper also ran articles on preventing Dengue and gave school kids mosquito-prevention patches featuring the letters. The campaign then concluded with the printing of the world’s first mosquito-repellant newspaper.

Results

Mawbima saw sales increase sales by 30% and readership rose by 300,000 people, exceeding the paper's expectations. The innovative paper featured in over 90 international media outlets including the BBC, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. On social media, it earned thousands of likes and shares as well as high profile comments, including one from Bill Gates. The paper was even cited as an example of how the print industry could revive itself, and publications around the world have shown a massive interest in copying the idea.

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