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British Heart Foundation: 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards Shortlist Interview

Increasing awareness of resuscitation techniques via a campaign fronted by footballer turned actor Vinnie Jones delivered an estimated £48.5m of savings to the public purse and other benefits.


Q1. When and why did you decide to launch a campaign?

NR: “The UK lags behind many other countries when it comes to survival rates for people suffering cardiac arrests.

“The majority of people don’t know what to do if they see somebody collapse, are worried about making things worse, or fear they might be sued.

“We knew we had to do something ground-breaking to give the thousands of people who suffer a cardiac arrest a fighting chance of survival. And to give everyone the confidence and skills to save a life.”

MB: “In the summer of 2011 we were briefed to tackle cardiac arrests with the aim of increasing knowledge of hands-only CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) and getting more people stepping in and saving lives.”

Q2. How did you feel about the original brief?

NR: “We wanted to challenge our agency to come up with an innovative and memorable solution – something that would stick in people’s minds for months and years after they saw it. A campaign that would be as memorable as the 'Green Cross Code' and 'Clunk Click' campaigns, but at a fraction of the airtime those campaigns received.”

MB: “Honestly? Terrified.  We had to teach an uninterested audience a first aid procedure that contained multiple bits to remember.  In 40 seconds and all to music. It also had to gain column inches. Yes, terrified.”

Q3. How hard was it to get the campaign signed off?

NR: “Surprisingly easy! An advert featuring Vinnie Jones, some henchmen and a dead body they’d ‘prepared earlier’ isn’t the most obvious way for a health charity to get its message across. But everybody who saw the concept fell in love with it immediately.”

MB: “We had researched a number of creative routes in qualitative research and Vinnie emerged as a clear winner with the public. He captured people’s imagination.”

Q4. When and how did you first know that you had been successful?

NR: “We knew it had struck a chord with people within a few hours of launch, when it trended organically five times on Twitter.

“This was quickly followed by hitting 1 million YouTube views of the film in five days. It had taken us five years to reach this figure for all of our others videos combined!

“But the ultimate indicator of success was when we received our first letter from a person whose life had been saved by a bystander who was prompted to perform CPR as a result of seeing the advert. This has since been followed by more than 40 similar stories of lives being saved, and families being kept together.”

Q5. What was the biggest challenge in demonstrating the effectiveness of your work?

NR: “It’s pretty easy to demonstrate our awareness and reach via online stats and tracking research. The difficult part is showing that people have actually changed their behaviour as a result of seeing the campaign, as we can’t point to (shifts in) sales or market share.

“We can only rely on self-reporting – hearing stories from survivors or those everyday heroes who have stepped in to save a life.”

MB: “While cardiac arrests are way too common, we are not talking about millions of life-saving opportunities every day.  We didn’t really expect thousands of lives to be saved overnight.  Instead, we had to try and prove we had successfully trained millions of people who would be ready to step in, whenever that might be.”

Q6. How did this campaign compare to previous campaigns by the brand and competitors?

MB: “We had set the bar high with our use of Steven Berkoff in the 'Watch you Own Heart Attack' campaign and Victoria Wood for the 'Angina Monologues' activity. Both involved disruptive uses of media and celebrity and both were lucky enough to win industry awards.

“Elsewhere in the category St John Ambulance had already launched its campaign, The Difference, which aimed to make first aid personally relevant and terrifyingly urgent.

“With Vinnie we had to keep our nerve and disrupt once again. But in a way that flipped the first aid conventions.”

Q7. What lessons did this campaign teach you?

NR: “To be brave and challenge normal conventions around charity and health messaging.”

MB: “Never underestimate the power of entertainment to influence behaviour.  This campaign also reminded us how people learn new things – namely, visually, sonically and by copying gestures. Sometimes, the obvious things pass us by.”

Q8. What were the low points/high points of this campaign?

NR: “Low points – finalising usage rights for the Stayin' Alive music with the various rights’ owners in the States.

“High points – meeting several of the survivors and their families, and hearing about the things they have gone on to do since being saved – marriage, TV interviews and playing golf with Vinnie Jones in LA!”

MB: “Every time a life had been saved was a real high point in the agency. The emails went round the whole office. The parodies and copycats (generated by the campaign) were great as these showed we’d crossed into the culture.

“Low points? Thinking we’d never get Vinnie Jones on board at one point. He was our first choice, so it was fingers and toes crossed. It just wouldn’t have been the same without him.”

Q9. What would you do differently if you did this campaign over again?

NR: “Secure more budget to repeat the activity and reach more people.”

MB: “I think we’d have made it bigger.  We would have launched ‘Mini-Vinnies’ (the child-centric follow up) immediately after and piggy-backed on the cultural currency we created.  It would have expanded the reach and embedded the issue faster into families and schools.”

Q10. If you could have worked on one, other IPA award-winning campaign over the years which would it be, and why?

NR: “I’d say John Lewis – ‘Making the nation cry and buy’ (Grand Prix, 2012).  A benchmark in emotional advertising for commercial results.  At the BHF we always try to motivate a nation and I think this campaign really succeeded in doing just that.”

MB: “I’m very fond of the Johnnie Walker case – ‘From whisky producer to global icon’ (Grand Prix – 2008). Taking the brand from ailing whisky producer to worldwide icon showed that global brands (and creative work) can succeed amid the politics and barriers facing international organisations.”

Last updated 29/10/2014

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