Cannes Lions

The Little Chicken Called Pong Pong


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Case Film
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The huge problem of adult illiteracy is largely unknown, because those who can't read or write develop 'coping mechanisms' - ways to hide their illiteracy and get through everyday life. So to build empathy and awareness of the issue, we shared a story that showed how one special mum coped with her illiteracy.

Wanda Steward, from Philadelphia only recently learnt to read and write. When Wanda's children were young, they would ask her to read them a bedtime story. Rather than admit she couldn't read the words, she'd use her imagination to make up a story to accompany the pictures - using a character she'd invented called 'Pong Pong'.

To mark International Literacy Day, we invited Wanda to rewrite her own version of the classic children's story 'Chicken Little'. Then, we helped Wanda become what she would never have imagined - a published author.


Pearson celebrated Wanda’s creativity by publishing one of her stories, ‘The Little Chicken Named Pong-Pong’, her retelling of ‘Chicken Little.’ We enlisted the help of actor Idris Elba to perform a heartfelt ‘bedtime reading’ of Wanda’s new story.

On the morning of International Literacy Day, Idris released the reading on his social channels. Interviews with Idris then aired on both sides of the Atlantic. A fourteen-hour sell-in to reach both UK and US media with regional statistics and case studies drove on-the day coverage highlighting illiteracy as a problem in our own backyards.

Social support from celebrities including Gillian Anderson, Chelsea Clinton, Neil Gaiman and Forest Whitaker, helped spread the word about Wanda’s story. Influencer support came from YouTubers Niomi Smart and Jim Chapman, as well as leading parenting bloggers.

We also collaborated with 60 Second Docs, a social publisher producing short documentaries for Facebook, to cover Wanda’s personal story.


This integrated earned media strategy ensured Wanda’s story was heard and shared by millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic, resulting in the most successful and cost-effective campaign by Project Literacy to date with 4 million people reached for every £1 spent:

• 530 pieces of coverage with a bias towards millennial media including Mashable, HuffPost, PopSugar, Fox News, BBC and Channel 4

• 991 million media reach including 67 million influencer reach

• 94% of coverage included the call-to-action to download Wanda’s book; 90% mentioned the intergenerational cycle of illiteracy

• 751,000+ views on Facebook of Idris’s story reading

• The 60 Second Docs video syndicated across influencer channels and online media, including Met Daan (37 million fans), Ashton Kutcher’s social good blog, and USA Today, generating 3.9 million impressions and 679,000 views.

The campaign also incited action. Over 2,600 people have downloaded Wanda’s book from and over 20 partner organisations reported an increase in enquiries from adults either wanting support or offering to volunteer.

Through Pearson, the founder of Project Literacy, Wanda’s story will continue to be widely shared – for example, the book is set to be available via Pearson’s Worldreader partnership, helping thousands of families in India and Jordan to learn to read.

And in Philadelphia, where this story began, Wanda’s book now sits on the shelf of her local library and the Mayor declared September ‘Adult Literacy Month’ in her honour.

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