An innovative partnership devised by ‿ and us in Dubai led to the creation of 16,000 tiny, Covid-19-fighting soaps. Fadi Yaish talks to LBB’s Laura Swinton
In the fight against Covid-19, one of the simplest and most effective things we can do to minimise the risk of spreading infection is to wash our hands. Thoroughly. And for at least 20-30 seconds.
To help take the guesswork out, Deliveroo and Lush have teamed up to create and distribute carefully designed soaps that take exactly 30 seconds to dissolve after vigorous hand washing. So far, 16,000 of these smart soaps have been distributed across the UAE.
The idea came from indie creative agency ‿ and us. According to the agency’s founder and chief creative officer, Fadi Yaish, the idea was in response to an open brief from Lush, which is one of the agency’s clients. Crucially, it was an idea borne out of the very real and helpful role that the brand was able to play in the crisis.
“Lush is one of the few brands that I’ve been aware of in my three decades of experience that genuinely wanted to actively help and raise awareness. At the end of the day, soap is what they do, and soap and water can save lives - washing your hands effectively is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and has been shown to slow the pandemic by up to 24%. It was an open brief, as long as we come up with a solution that would actually make a difference not just raise awareness,” explains Fadi. “When we shared the self-timing soap idea with Lush it was an instant ‘let’s do it!’.”
So the idea of making a tiny self-timing soap found immediate support from the Lush team, but how would they get them into people’s hands? As serendipity would have it, Deliveroo is another ‿ and us client, so it made sense for both brands to collaborate. “I’m sure you’d appreciate both clients were very much concerned about raising awareness on safety and protection during the pandemic. They both had the same interest,” says Fadi. “So when we came up with the self-timing soap for Lush we knew they would want to distribute it at scale across Dubai, meanwhile we also knew that Deliveroo wanted to reassure its customers that hygiene and safety is their number one focus. Pairing the two brands was the perfect fit – like a hand in a glove - both clients saw the potential of this collaboration. It was effortless.”
Making the soap and finding the perfect formulation and size was a surprisingly tricky process. In all, it took the team five weeks and 115 tests to get the perfect self-timing bar. They also made sure that the packaging was 100% recycled.
You would think ‘it’s simple, make a small piece of soap’ and that will do it. But the whole idea was that it had to be self-timing. The perfect one-wash soap that will disappear after exactly 30 seconds. “The Lush team worked very hard to find the perfect soap and re-design it to last just 30 seconds to drive constant results with average water temperature, and varying hand sizes,” explains Fadi. “Every iteration of the soap was tested and timed until we dialled it to 30 seconds. We had to do around 115 experiments until we got it right.”
But how would the whole thing wash with the public? Even Fadi, who fully believed in the idea, was astounded at the response. He says that the team has been overwhelmed with stories and notes of appreciation – and it seems that the conventional coronavirus wisdom that we must wash our hands ‘for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice’ has proven to be confusing for many. Interest in the soaps has spread beyond the UAE, and people around the world have been in touch to request the soap. So far, 27,000 people have been in touch to request 243,00 soaps and interest has come from Manchester to Melbourne, Barcelona to Beirut.
Filling that demand goes beyond the scope of this first push, but the team are looking at ways to push the project further. “We’ll never be able to distribute enough at the end of the day,” says Fadi. “So, initially, the intention was to distribute a few thousands to raise awareness and then take it online. But the people’s reaction and response was so great that we end up distributing over 16,000 between Deliveroo and online and now we are working on a second release. The response has been overwhelming from people, but importantly, from media and NGOs too. There is continuous discussion every week on how big and how far this can go.”
Ultimately, the journey that ‿ and us has been on with Lush and Deliveroo has revealed a bigger market for the product than any of the team initially imagined. And as businesses and societies start to open up again, the need to be vigilant and take precautions against the disease remains. “In fact, during the course of this exercise we came to learn that appropriate hand-hygiene education has long been a challenge faced by health authorities around the world. To that end, the 30-Second Soap is a product that will persist even in a post-Covid world - carrying soap in your bag or pockets is cumbersome, but everyone has room for a tiny one-wash soap.”
The project is an exemplar of the creative freedom that Fadi sought when he launched the agency 15 months ago. The former ECD at McCann FP7/DXB and ex-regional ECD at Impact BBDO has built what he calls ‘a great happy circle’ between his team and clients at the agency, which names Google, Coca Cola, Juton, Deliveroo, Lush, Batelco (Bahrain telecom) and F1 Abu Dhabi among its clients.
“Having freedom is the secret. To be able to do anything we want at any time is instantly priceless. We can work with our client in a way that works best, as opposed to a ‘one system serves all’ approach,” says Fadi. “This true agility and flexibility allows us and our clients to deliver great marketing and design solutions.”