One Sunday a few weeks ago a mask appeared on the face of Brazil's most iconic structure, the Christ the Redeemer statue which sits atop the Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro. The nose and mouth of Christ had been covered as a way of informing Brazilians of the importance of wearing a mask when leaving the house and was launched as part of a campaign by Brazilian bank Itau Unibanco and its long-time agency partner Africa.
This wasn't just some one-off piece of social brand message for the sake of it though. The Christ the Redeemer project is just a small part of a much wider initiative launched by Itau to help with the fight against coronavirus in Brazil. Dubbed 'Todos pela Saude' (All for Health), the initiative involves guidance, the purchase of health equipment, training of health professionals, and communicative ideas like the one mentioned before. To bring this initiative to life, Itau announced a donation of 1 billion Brazilian real (about $250 million USD), which is being managed by a team of experts who are led by Dr Paulo Chapchap, a doctor in surgical studies at the University of Sao Paulo and general director at Hospital Sirio Libanes, one of the largest in Brazil.
It's a huge, real undertaking for a brand to take in response to a social health crisis. To find out more about it, LBB's Addison Capper spoke to Claudia Politanski, VP at Itau Unibanco, and Alexandre Peralta and Marcelo Bruzzesi, executive creative directors at Africa.
LBB> To get started, can you tell us about Todos pela Saude. What inspired this initiative?
Claudia> The idea came from the urgency of the situation we are experiencing today. We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and we could not shy away from collaborating with Brazil and Brazilians. Itau was born and raised here. Designed to save lives, Todos pela Saude will have an impact on combating Covid-19 and the effects of the disease among us. Itau Unibanco has a history of social actions, operating through the Itau Foundation for Education and Culture and Instituto Unibanco, so it was a natural calling in that sense.
LBB> When did you first begin discussing what you could do to tackle the virus? And why did you decide to take such direct, extensive action?
Claudia> Since the first signs of the pandemic state, we started adopting internal measures for safeguarding our employees and customers. We implemented quarantine protocols for employees with infection suspicions, as well as elevated our hygienic standards in our branches and headquarters. To our retail and wholesale customers, we developed a wide range of initiatives aiming at helping them go through the crisis in a financially sustainable way. In March, we announced our first donation of R$150 million and those resources are being used especially on hospital infrastructure and protection equipment. Finally, at the beginning of April - understanding that as a leading financial institution we are part of the solution to all this - we started gathering a group of highly skilled health professionals and within a week we set up Todos pela Saude. We are committed to Brazil and to Brazilians. Itau Unibanco is recognised by holding the highest governance and management standards, so adding the technical skills from those seven health specialists, we truly believe that this group has the power of leaving a legacy for Brazil and our entire health system.
LBB> What are the main aims of Todos pela Saude? And why is such a big initiative necessary in a country like Brazil?
Claudia> We defined four central axis to translate what we want to achieve:
- Campaigns to encourage the use of masks by the population
- Orientation of the population to hand hygiene and cough etiquette
- Enhancement of civil society solidarity initiatives
- Provision of individual protection and testing equipment for health professionals
- Population testing to guide public health actions
- Support to state and large municipal public managers in structuring crisis offices
- Training and support to health professionals in best practices, protocols and therapies
- Use of telemedicine to monitor cases and support health professionals
- Expansion of capacity and efficiency in referenced hospital structures
- Purchase and distribution of strategic inputs, in addition to the mobilization of equipment and human resources
- Collaboration for the development of strategies, aiming at: safer return to social activities and high-risk population monitoring programs
LBB> Itau has enlisted a team of specialists led by Dr Paulo Chapchap to lead the initiative. How did you get this group together? And what kind of brief have you given them with regards to what they need to do?
Claudia> The first criteria was to choose people with recognised performance in the health area. We first invited Dr Paulo Chapchap and he chose the other members of the group, all of which are professionals who demonstrate a high commitment to health, both public and private, in addition to great management skills, in which decision-making is based on solid scientific evidence in the health area. We wanted to set up a group with deep knowledge of the Brazilian reality and performance in public and private initiatives. This group of specialists is identifying the country's main needs and prioritising them.
LBB> Are you working with the government at all? Or is this quite separate?
Claudia> The actions of Todos pela Saude aim to contribute to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus in Brazil. This necessarily implies that we are in contact with the government all the time. We understand that the natural consequence of this will be a focus on the public sector, where the greatest needs are concentrated.
LBB> How are you working with Africa on all of this?
Claudia> Africa is Itau's ad agency since 2002. So we come from a long way back. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the agency has been working side by side with us, thinking and creating communications solutions amid the pandemic. When Itau announced a R$1 billion donation for Covid-19 relief efforts in Brazil and the set up of Todos pela Saude, it needed an ad agency to create and promote the publicity for the initiative. Considering the long-time partnership we have with Africa, the natural move was for them to be working on this with us since day one.
LBB> Alexandre and Marcelo, what were your initial thoughts when you heard about this project?
Alexandre and Marcelo> Africa has been working for the Itau Bank account for many years. With the escalation of the Covid-19 health crisis, Itau announced a R$1 billion donation (about $250 million USD), specifically directed to public health initiatives aimed at helping Brazilian society. To do it properly, Itau has founded a movement that brings together several doctors and health specialists. They formed a board that decides and prioritises which initiatives should be supported with the money. We were involved from the beginning. It's such an honour for Africa to be standing side by side with Todos Pela Saude, working and creating campaigns aimed at helping and informing people from all over the country.
LBB> This is such a big, direct initiative for a brand to take with regards to this crisis. Why is it necessary for Itau to do such a thing in Brazil do you think? And what are your thoughts on a brand getting involved like this?
Claudia> Itau Unibanco was born, grew and will continue to grow in Brazil. We have more than 95 years in this country, so we need to take care of our home. As I said, we have a long track record of social contributions through our foundation. This is part of our DNA. So it was crystal clear to us that we needed to take action and it needed to be bold. We will not rest until we have overcome this pandemic.
Alexandre and Marcelo> As the largest bank and one of the biggest companies in Brazil, Itau strongly believes that it's important to take action and assume this role as a company and as a brand. Not only by donating money and creating initiatives by itself, but by inviting other companies to get together and do the same. We are proud to have a client that is brave enough to do something like that. This is such a good message coming from a brand – this is not about talking, but doing.
LBB> How are you, Africa as an agency, working within the initiative? Are you also interacting with Dr Chapchap's team of specialists too?
Alexandre and Marcelo> We’ve been working closely with Itau and the doctors to find ways to pass the right message to the population. Brazil is a big country and we have the challenge to reach different groups of people in its 26 states. Working in collaboration with them has been crucial to determine the right strategy. One of the doctors, Dr. Drauzio Varella, is very well known not only by health professionals, but by the Brazilian public in general, so he was chosen as one of the campaign's spokesmen.
LBB> Christ the Redeemer is such an iconic piece of imagery for Brazil - when did you first begin working on masking the statue? What inspired that idea?
Claudia> We needed to spread the word about the importance of using face masks when going outdoors in a very quick and broad-ranging way. So we needed to do something big. We were discussing possible influencers but we needed to go beyond. Then, we thought of Christ the Redeemer, which is perhaps the best known landmark in Brazil. Nobody would spread out the message better than the Redeemer.
Alexandre and Marcelo> We were discussing possible influencers for the campaign when we came up with the idea. Nobody is a better influencer than the Redeemer, Brazil's main postcard. We realised that this would be a great way of spreading the word fast.
LBB> How did you pull the project off? Especially during lockdown - the logistics must have been very tricky!
Alexandre and Marcelo> Since the crisis began, we’ve been working from home. We’ve created a work process to put all the teams together through virtual meetings and brainstorm sessions. When it comes to production, we’ve been working remotely as well. We’ve been using drones, computer cameras, etc. Only a few people were involved in this particular project - it wouldn’t make sense to put people in risk.
Claudia> Itau and Africa have been working from home since the crisis began. Teams are working together through virtual meetings and WhatsApp groups. Everything was remotely organised. During production, a very small group, composed only by the extremely necessary professionals, was involved and all of them followed all the protective guidelines. The main challenge was to set up everything by distance and to leave everything in the hands of weather conditions. Thankfully, everything went just fine and the result was wonderful.
LBB> What were the biggest challenges with that project? And how did you overcome them?
Alexandre and Marcelo> As a matter of fact, our biggest challenge was the weather. We were at risk of cloudy weather, which would have made visibility of the Redeemer kind of difficult. In the worst case scenario, we'd be left with nothing to be done. We took our chances and got lucky. Thanks, Redeemer.
LBB> What kind of reaction did you see to the project from the public?
Alexandre and Marcelo> Celebrities, artists, opinion makers and all the press talked about it. People were able to watch the live transmission on some television channels that broadcasted it as well. The event was a great opportunity for us to talk about the movement and spread out the message – which was all we expected from the beginning.
LBB> What else have you been working on for the Todos pela Saude project?
Alexandre and Marcelo> We launched an original song along with the Brazilian superstar singers Ivete Sangalo and Luan Santana, with a remixed version done by DJ Alok. We’ve been broadcasting this song through television, social media and their own live concerts on YouTube. Basically, the song talks about how important it is to use masks and why everyone should be doing that. It’s a content project.
LBB> And what will you be working on moving forward for it?
Claudia> Todos pela Saude is increasingly becoming a very big movement. We are approaching the end of the first month of activities and a lot has been achieved already by the council of health professionals that are leading the project. We have been able to deliver equipment all around the country and we are working closely with the local crisis committees in all Brazilian states. There is still lots to be done and we are confident to keep working with agility and enthusiasm to beat coronavirus.
Alexandre and Marcelo> Right now our goal is to bring more companies and brands into the movement. We want to amplify the message. We will keep spreading out the word around the country with more and more voices. As Dr Drauzio Varella says, the mask is the only vaccine we have for the moment. In this campaign, our KPI is to save lives.