Sustainable Development Goals > People


FCB INFERNO, London / HUAWEI / 2019


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Huawei are the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer. Their brand promise is to ‘push the limits of what is humanly possible’, and they challenged us to bring it to life in way that made a positive difference in society. There are 32 million deaf children in the world, and most of them struggle to read. This is because deaf children don’t learn to read like hearing children. They can’t learn phonetically, so they struggle to match words with sounds. This has a hugely negative effect on their futures, reducing their opportunities, impacting on their educational outcomes, even their future employability. In fact, new research shows that it takes 21 years for deaf children to catch up with their hearing peers. We agreed three objectives:

• Raise awareness of deaf literacy issues

• Use mobile technology to open the world of books to deaf children

• Improve Huawei brand perception

Describe the cultural/social/political/environmental climate in your region and the significance of your campaign within this context

“If a deaf person doesn’t achieve the same level of literacy as hearing person there are long term effects on their lives. This app could make a big difference.” – Dr Kate Rowley, University College London

While specialist education for deaf children exists, currently most deaf children cannot access it. In the UK for example there are only 20 specialist school to cater to 45,000 deaf children, which means that around 78% of deaf children attend mainstream schools with little or no special provision. Because of government cuts there are 14% fewer teachers of the deaf in the last seven years, while there has been a 31% increase in demand for their services. This situation is similar the world over.

90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents. Meaning their parents may well not be fluent in sign and cannot support them through school.

All of this means that literacy is a huge issue within the deaf community, and an idea that could help address this issue would make a significant positive impact.

Describe the creative idea

To help offer a quality education to deaf children and show the power of Huawei’s smartphone AI, we needed an idea that offered real change. We created the first global literacy platform for the deaf – StorySign. A revolutionary free app, StorySign scans the words in selected children’s books and instantly translates them into sign language, using the most advanced signing avatar ever. This helps the world’s 32 million deaf children learn to read and sign with their families, and lead happier, healthier lives. Huawei’s AI makes the app more accurate, means it can read text from an angle of up to 45 degrees, and even work in low light conditions for bedtime stories. Available across all Android devices in 11 countries so far, supported by 11 international deaf charities, StorySign delivers on Huawei’s promise to ‘push the limits of what is humanly possible’.

Describe the strategy

Our research revealed the impact of deaf illiteracy throughout life. 90% of deaf children have hearing parents, most of whom do not sign and can’t share bedtime stories. 57% of deaf students fail to achieve basic high school qualifications. And fewer than 40% of deaf adults are employed. The root of the problem is that deaf children struggle to read, because they can’t learn phonetically. Our insight - if we helped them link words with signs, it would hugely increase what’s possible for them in school, and in the future. Huawei believe in the positive power of AI, their smartphones include an AI chip. So our strategic approach was two-fold. Change the story of deaf literacy for a core audience of families with deaf children aged 0-5 (key for reading development). And improve Huawei brand perception with a broad global audience by showing AI solving a truly human problem.

Describe the execution

Available across all Android devices, executing StorySign took an alliance of world-class partners.

11 international deaf charities, and launching in 11 different sign languages, ensured StorySign met the needs of deaf children.

Penguin Random House, the world’s leading publisher, are adding their library of books, so deaf children can enjoy the same stories as their hearing friends.

Huawei’s Kirin AI chip boosts performance, making StorySign more accurate.

Oscar-winning Aardman Animations created ‘Star’, the most advanced signing avatar ever. Every detail appeals to deaf children, from her age (because children learn better from siblings), to her hearing aid (to destigmatise deafness).

Select the children’s book, hold your smartphone over the words in the physical edition, and StorySign instantly translates them into sign language, highlighting words in sign language order to link words and signs.

StorySign brings together all of this to improve the educational outcomes of a generation of deaf children.

Describe the results/impact

“You see children within school who are slipping behind. This is why the EUD, as well as 10 other deaf charities around the world, are supporting StorySign.” Mark Wheatley – European Union of the Deaf

StorySign has made such an impact for the deaf community that Huawei are keeping the story going, launching the app in China, and adding more books.

Raise awareness of deaf literacy issues:

•1.5bn+ global reach (target 604 million)

•128m+ app film views (target 40 million)

•1000+ pieces of international coverage (target 340)

•£11.4m estimated earned media

Use mobile technology to open the world of books to deaf children:

•Launched in 11 countries

•Supported by 11 international charities

•52 more books coming in 2019

Improve Huawei brand perception:

•+19.9% within 2 months

Selected media reaction:

• Forbes: “A portal to a whole new world.”

• Wired: “AI translates kids’ books into sign language.”

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