Creative in association withGear Seven
Hooked on Phonics Stages Fake Intervention to Push Forward on Reading
Marketing & PR
Hot Springs, USA
Little BIG Engine campaign sees the program help millions of families teach their kids how to read and spell

Independent creative agency Little BIG Engine has created a marketing campaign for Hooked on Phonics, a spoof PSA that’s the first ever to educate, entertain, and acknowledge the brand’s role in pop culture. The 30-second ad and one 120-second spot are airing on Facebook, Youtube and connected TV.

Hooked on Phonics has been deeply rooted in different forms of broadcast media placements over the last 35 years, but this is the first time the educational brand has experimented with humour and an entertainment angle to attract parents and teachers. They have mostly used direct-response advertising.

“We wanted to try something different in the ‘branded conversion’ space,” said Lauren Ball, VP, Hooked on Phonics. “The creative shows what happens when a child is literally hooked on phonics.”

In the long-form ad, a young couple arrange a sit-down discussion with their daughter, who appears to be five or six. Both visibly uncomfortable, the parents take turns working through a preplanned script for what feels very much like an intervention that begins with, “We love you. This isn’t easy to say…”

“Your mother and I think you’re hooked on phonics,” dad says to the child, who responds with “That’s preposterous.” (Throughout the spot, she uses big words her parents don’t understand, which frustrates them.) They drag out physical proof: The child has a dictionary stashed under her pillow, but she says she just reads it for the pictures. “There are no pictures!” Dad snaps, to which the kid offers the perfect perplexing Gen Z answer: “That’s your opinion.”

“With Hooked on Phonics, your child will learn to read in 30 days—whether you want them to or not,” a VO says.

The ad’s objective is to bring back the nostalgia of Hooked on Phonics to Millennials with kids and introduce the brand to those who didn’t have experience with it. Especially now, in the world of home parenting and schooling, the program is helping millions of families teach their kids how to read and spell.

“This is the first time Hooked on Phonics has made a brand film like this, and so far, it’s been working better than we hoped,” said Patrick Maravilla, founder and executive creative director at Little BIG Engine. “And we had high hopes!” 

Hooked on Phonics is the only true multisensory learn-to-read curriculum with an award-winning app and practice material mailed to your home. It is designed to enrich young minds, help families and children accelerate reading readiness, strengthen reading skills, and build confidence for success.  

Agency / Creative