In 2015 agency FCB Inferno were commissioned by the Pearson Foundation to launch their global illiteracy awareness initiative Project Literacy. A ninety second viral film, The Alphabet of Illiteracy, launched the multi-faceted campaign in February 2016.
Felt Music were brought into the project in the Autumn of 2015, tasked with creating the music for the film alongside FCB Creative Director Martin McAllister, Art Director Julia Ferrier and Executive Creative Director Owen Lee. With such delicate subject matter at hand, it was essential to find a tone for the music that would compliment the brave creative, capturing the listener’s attention in a surprising way whilst remaining poignant and respectful. The animated film, based on the work of sculptor Wilfrid Wood, cycles through the alphabet, highlighting twenty-six distinct problems caused or worsened by illiteracy. Though each depiction of the twenty-six issues were candid and arguably shocking, the sculptures were colourful and had an almost childlike quality. This juxtaposition of subject matter and visuals was something which the agency felt should be amplified by the music.
Felt started with a general music search, working alongside both major and independent record labels and publishers to compile a number of playlists for the creatives. After a number of rounds, it became clear that a straightforward synchronisation was not offering a striking enough result. The music needed to share centre stage with the visuals, seizing the alphabet concept fully rather than just underscoring it.
A direction forward eventually came in the form of a Rosemary Clooney and Tony Pastor’s recording of “A – You’re Adorable”, an alphabet themed love song originally published in 1948. Martin and Julia felt that the sweet, light-hearted melody against their imagery strengthened the jarring juxtaposition of the visuals and further enhanced the charity’s message. Furthermore, the team decided that the concept could be pushed even further with a re-record and re-written lyrics. Felt negotiated a usage fee and permission to alter with the publisher, Music Sales, and subsequently brought in two seasoned composers and lyricists Jess Bailey and Graeme Perkins to work through the song with the creatives.
With the lyrics re-written, Felt were tasked with sourcing talent for the re-record. Again, we used our relationships with record labels and publishers to bring together a shortlist of artists. Felt commissioned a series of recorded auditions of the new arrangement and lyrics from each of the artists for the agency and charity to review. The shortlist was whittled down to the established Spanish singer Russian Red and London-based up and comer Malory Torr.
After much decision, Malory Torr was selected by the agency. Although the underdog in terms of her following and standing in the industry, the team felt Torr’s delivery of the song offered an incredibly subtle but powerful emotional resonance which truly drove home the charity's message. The final recording was held at the Felt studio, overseen by our in-house producer.
The result was an ambitious award-winning film that was met with acclaim both critically and from its wider audience. In particular, the film won the Grand Prix in the Health and Wellness category of the 2016 Cannes Lions Awards for creativity. Amassing 2.8 million views in the first fortnight of its release, the film has spearheaded a bold and groundbreaking global campaign to raise awareness for illiteracy.
"...it was essential to find a tone for the music that would compliment the brave creative, capturing the listener’s attention in a surprising way whilst remaining poignant and respectful."
"...an ambitious award-winning film that was met with acclaim both critically and from its wider audience."