In a world where literacy is often taken for granted, Bangladesh stands out with a staggering 24% of its population unable to read or write. Yet, nestled within this statistic lies an unexpected treasure trove of storytelling, a vibrant part of the nation’s cultural tapestry that has long been overlooked.
This year, the Cannes Lions Festival for Creativity 2023 shortlisted an innovative campaign from Bangladesh named “The Unwritten Stories,” in the Print and Publishing category which is not only changing the narrative but also preserving the nation’s rich cultural heritage.
Crafted by Asiatic MCL for the brand Bidyanondo, the campaign stemmed from a poignant problem:
“The fading away of unique, culturally rooted stories told by those unable to commit them to paper. In a world where the story is the king, these narrative gems were at risk of being lost forever, or worse, appropriated by literate authors claiming them as their own.”
Bidyanondo decided to challenge this status quo by launching a permanent platform that transforms these oral storytellers into published authors. The initiative involved a dedicated team of volunteers and writers who collected, selected, and compiled the stories into a book.
Notably, the book cover was adorned with the thumbprint of a person who couldn’t write, symbolizing the shift of authorship back to the original storytellers.
But the campaign didn’t stop at merely publishing the stories. The books were showcased at the country’s largest book fair, and the sales proceeds were thoughtfully divided: half went to the storytellers as royalties, while the other half was channeled into educational charities to empower future generations with literacy.
The response was nothing short of astounding. The first edition, composed of 11,005 copies, sold out within two days. It collected 500 stories from across the country, debuted individuals as published authors who previously couldn’t write, and amassed an organic PR value of 1 million USD.
On social media, the campaign reached over 14.5 million people and engaged close to 800,000 individuals on Facebook alone, reflecting its immense popularity and impact.
“The Unwritten Stories” not only earned getting shortlisted at the Cannes Lions Festival for Creativity 2023 but also underscored the power of human creativity when channeled effectively. The campaign’s success is a testament to the enduring allure of storytelling, the transformative power of creative problem-solving, and the profound potential that lies within our collective cultural heritage.
As we celebrate this achievement, let’s remember the countless unwritten stories that have now found their place in the world, and the remarkable journey of those storytellers who, against all odds, became published authors.
This is not just an achievement for Bidyanondo and Asiatic MCL; it’s an achievement for Bangladesh, for storytelling, and for every voice that yearns to be heard.
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