2,439 calories burned. 10 hours. 85% humidity. 147 BPM heart rate.
Sound like a great workout? No. Rather, these are real measurements from a day in the life of a Cambodian sweatshop worker. Workers in Cambodia are pushed to the limit under extreme, inhumane working conditions to make stylish workout clothes. Belgian political development organization World Solidarity and Belgium-based agency Boondoggle have created the campaign for Clean Clothes, an international alliance dedicated to improving working conditions. The campaign introduces Tyrah, an alias for a real-life Cambodian worker who was filmed undercover at a factory that produces the latest sports measurement tools. The campaign was created to show the world the exhausting conditions people are working under—long hours, six days a week in the sweltering heat.
With this campaign, Clean Clothes wants to jump start a conversation and boost awareness so that employers will be compelled to provide better working conditions. This past year at Belgium’s biggest cycling event, Tour de Flanders, Boondoggle initiated the world’s first-ever “clothes control”; it’s a so-called shirt check—where participating athletes are told the truth about the conditions under which their clothes were made. Stijn Cox, Managing Partner at Boondoggle, talks about the motivation behind this unique, impactful campaign.
Tell us about your role at Boondoggle.
Well, as Managing Partner I’m responsible for client service, business development, and the marketing of Boondoggle. Previously, I was a partner and shareholder at BBDO, Chief Strategy Officer in an experiential marketing agency handling Coca-Cola and Unilever, and part of agency leadership at Omnicom Media Group, Belgium. I have been in Adland for quite a while. My motto is “Color outside the lines but within the big picture.”
What was the motivation behind this campaign?
We all enjoy our favorite brands and in this case, sports gear brands. But most of us simply don’t know where the T-shirt or the shoes come from, and under what circumstances they have been produced. So, we wanted to confront people about their ignorance in a way they can maximally identify with. That’s why we also show the same measurement equipment every amateur sportsman uses to track his performance, but we use it to track how workers are exploited by consumers’ favorite sports brands.
What raised your awareness of this issue?
We work for an NGO that deals with fair clothing manufacturing. We pitched them last year, and we won. In addition to that, we happen to be an agency that values high ethical standards and is very conscious of its impact on society.
Why do you think it is important to create campaigns like this?
Because, as a marketing agency we should not be only about selling without regard to morality. We should be the propellers of a meaningful approach to marketing because this will be the basis of a sustainable business for agencies like ours and for the brands that are working with sweatshops today. As a part of the Havas network, we think that it underpins Havas’ vision of how we should help brands become meaningful and grow. In the end, we don’t mean to put the brands that treat their workers unfairly out of business. Our job is to raise awareness of this situation so brands are compelled to improve the workers’ working conditions on a daily basis.
Have you received positive feedback?
Yes, people did go and register, so the pressure to see change is increasing. The Minister of Employment has agreed to back this campaign by making a deal with the clothing sector to prevent abuse. An earlier activation we did for them, was at our cycling event with the shirt check. The brands agreed to enter into dialogue with our NGO, to work together to improve the conditions at the factories where they source their clothes, which was the main objective. This means we have a happy client. We also have received a lot of compliments from our peers and our colleagues in the agency.
What is your goal, the end result you wish to achieve from this campaign?
Let’s hope we can one day help these clients tell a more meaningful and sustainable story about their sports gear brands. That would close the circle for us.
Do you have any other plans for this campaign?
We want to engage with famous Belgian people—actors, athletes, etcetera.—and have them go experience what factory workers go through every day and to do this for six days in a row during the Christmas national charity event covered live with streaming, interviews, testimonials, and the like.
This is a great cause because everyone—the client, the worker who testified, our creatives, and even our CFO—pushed their own limits to get to the best possible result. It was worth every drop of sweat that our teams put into it.