Initiated by Save The Children, UNICEF and Alive & Thrive and created by independent Myanmar agency Bridge with PR & Digital from Vero, the #6la campaign has been recognized by a panel of regional industry experts for its quality, compelling message and the colossal impact it had on Myanmar society. With these awards, the campaign sets a new industry standard for sustainable communication in South East Asia.
Launched in August 2018, the “6 months: mother’s milk is all you need” (#6la) campaign aimed to combat the aspirational marketing of formula brands and show that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months is best for mothers, babies, families and national well-being.
“Campaigns like these are critical to creating an environment where mothers feel supported to breastfeed their children. With so many formula milk companies using advertising to sell their products, it’s important that mother’s milk maintains its position as the undisputed best for babies, and is fed exclusively in the first 6 months of life,” said Andy Nilsen, Director of Communications, Advocacy and Campaigns at Save the Children.
“In Myanmar, where 1 in 3 children are malnourished, adherence to recommended breastfeeding practices has been proven to reduce child mortality and improve child health, nutrition, and cognitive development. It is essential that parents have access to correct, unbiased information about how best to feed their babies and children. That’s why campaigns like #6la are so important,” says Ms. June Kunugi, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar.
Reaching close to 20 million people in Myanmar, and activating 1 in 4 births in Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, the #6la campaign plugged into the importance of community to build a positive and empowering message that celebrated motherhood and supported mothers and their close circles to feed babies nothing but breast milk for the first 6 months.
“The nutrition, protection and love that mothers give their child in the first six months of life should be celebrated, especially by those who matter most to them,” said Donald Eastwood, Bridge’s Creative Director.
Mothers were visited just after birth and at prenatal groups by teams that included trained midwives from the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS). Mothers would receive a commitment bracelet pack containing month-by-month breastfeeding support and breastfeeding basics, and could join mHealth app, MayMay, for further information and long-term engagement.
Mothers could also request commitment bracelets for the people around her that were most important to her breastfeeding exclusively until 6 months, In line with the key behavioural insight that Myanmar mothers were influenced by a number of personal “influencers” when making decisions for their babies.
Eastwood adds: “The amazing Chit Thu Wai, R Zarni, Wut Hmone Shwe Yi, Daw Nwe Nwe San and Dr. Saw Win championed the friend, father, sister, grandmother, and doctor whose support helps a breastfeeding mother and influences social norms around breastfeeding. Singer Sung Thin Par was our archetypal mother, and really did exclusively breastfeeding her daughter to 6 months on the last day of the campaign!”
The campaign owes part of its success to the great support it gained from these influential personalities and many more. Mra Thitsa Than, Vero’s Strategic Planner in Myanmar and Vero’s account lead for the campaign at the time: “It was crucial that the campaign addressed these family members, neighbors, health specialists, and they weigh in on core decisions made by mothers as well. We know the great role social influencers play in Myanmar, and we worked hard to develop key relationships with influential personalities who could help us bring our messages to the right people. By the end of the campaign, close to 50 top tier influencers had taken part in the movement, online or offline, and were advocating for exclusive breastfeeding.”
“We also believe in the power of a comprehensive approach to spark social change so we rolled out our messages across communication platforms. On a daily basis, we worked with leading publications to write empowering and educative stories on motherhood and on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and we reached out online too, through the May May app and its Facebook page.”
The power of the movement induced a snowball effect, onboarding key players of Myanmar’s private sector as well. By the end of the campaign, KBZ Bank had established and announced its first breastfeeding room as well as a revised HR policy to include paid breaks for breastfeeding mothers and were showing the campaign film in over 500 branches. City Mart also joined in the movement and gave supporter bracelets to all shop staff, sold supporter packs giving proceeds back to the campaign and displayed messaging across 38 supermarkets.
“Globally, a woman’s return to work is one of the leading barriers to successful breastfeeding. By engaging with leaders of the business community in Myanmar, the #6la campaign made impressive progress toward addressing real barriers to exclusive breastfeeding in a relatively short period of time, and this has proven an important starting point for further advocacy to create more breastfeeding-friendly workplaces in Myanmar,” said Roger Mathisen, Program Director for Alive & Thrive in Southeast Asia.
Reaching close to 20 million people in Myanmar over a period of 3 months, #6la helped break misconceptions about exclusive breastfeeding while empowering mothers to make informed decisions. Testing before and after showed 3 in 5 now recognise the brand, and over 97% of them agree that for the strongest, smartest, healthiest and happiest baby, feed nothing but breast milk for the first 6 months.
The campaign could not be realised without strong public-private partnerships and support from the Government of Myanmar. “This valuable partnership represents an aligning of common interests to improve the lives of children in Myanmar,” says Ms. June Kunugi, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar. “It is hoped that all actors will continue to work together to scale up nutrition interventions through similar innovative programmes. #6la is a great example of the power of communication to spark positive change in society, and of the tremendous potential nurtured when all actors come together behind one, great message.”
And there is more to come: following the successes over the last year, MOHS plans to take the campaign forward and reach even more of Myanmar’s amazing mothers and their supporters, so watch this space!
Bridge is a strategy-driven creative agency, specialising in design and communications for advocacy and behaviour change. These are produced in-house through a team of pioneering Myanmar and international strategists and creatives with backgrounds at WPP, BBC, Proximity, PSI, Vice, Nike, and Channel 4 (UK) and through a network of Myanmar and regional specialist partners. Bridge works to create positive measurable impact in close collaboration with leading intergovernmental and development sector organisations and forward-thinking private sector companies.
Vero is a Brand Strategy innovator and ranks among the leading agency networks in Southeast Asia. Independent, employee-owned and managed, Vero operates offices in Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia and manages campaigns in every major market in South East Asia. Vero employs close to 100 professionals in the ASEAN region, including Strategic planners, PR experts, social community managers, paid digital advertising consultants, creative professionals and media relations specialists, among others.
For more information, visit us at Vero
About Save the Children
Save the Children has worked in Myanmar since 1995, helping children to access essential services such as healthcare and education. Since then, Save the Children has expanded its programmes within the country, supporting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families to access nutritious foods, gainful employment and financial services, community protection, child rights, clean water and sanitation, malaria and TB control and HIV/AIDS treatment.vOur programmes on the ground have yielded positive results in the quality of life for children, families and communities, resulting in invitations to participate in key policy processes at the national level.
UNICEF has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, UNICEF’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation.
For more information, visit us at www.unicef.org/myanmar
About Alive & Thrive
Alive & Thrive (A&T) is a global nutrition initiative to save lives, prevent illness, and ensure healthy growth of mothers and children. From 2009–2014, A&T demonstrated that rapid improvements in infant and young child feeding (IYCF) are possible in settings as diverse as Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Viet Nam. In 2014, A&T began working in Burkina Faso, India, Nigeria, and throughout the Southeast Asia region, expanding its scope to include maternal and adolescent nutrition, and using agriculture and social protection programs as delivery mechanisms for maternal, infant, and young child nutrition (MIYCN). Currently, A&T is leveraging its robust network and knowledge base to strengthen systems and build capacity in these and other countries across Africa and Asia, and disseminate innovations, tools, and lessons worldwide. The Alive & Thrive initiative, managed by FHI 360, is currently funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Irish Aid, the Tanoto Foundation, and UNICEF.
For more information, visit us at www.aliveandthrive.org