Saving a generation

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

How do we get a nation in lockdown, focused on their families and their futures to think about what coronavirus means for a child in Bangladesh? Or Yemen? That was the challenge Open and Unicef were faced with a few weeks ago. And we knew that if we didn’t meet it, it would be devastating for millions. No pressure then.

Working closely with Unicef’s teams, we developed a creative approach that took what we were all learning about coronavirus from the daily briefings, and flipped it to make our message urgent and relevant.

We all know that coronavirus is more deadly for those with pre-existing conditions. In some parts of the world, poverty is a pre-existing condition. So are hunger and conflict. In a community where there’s already not enough food, medicine, or basics like soap and water makes, everyone is more at risk from a deadly pandemic.

Another thing we all learned about coronavirus is that there’s one generation that’s disproportionately affected. In the UK and many western countries, that’s older people. But in the poorest communities, it’s children. Millions of children. Research from Unicef and Johns Hopkins estimated that if we didn’t act, 6,000 children could die every day. That’s one child every 15 seconds.

Armed with that knowledge, there was only one way to frame our campaign:

Save Generation Covid

Save Generation Covid Billboard

We helped Unicef spread the word that a generation of children is under threat from the impact of coronavirus. We developed a bold visual style that can currently be seen on key outdoor sites across the UK as well as the usual online and offline channels. And, with the help of a track donated by Fatboy Slim, as well as a voiceover from Unicef ambassador David Harewood, we created a DRTV ad that’s as big and ambitious as it should be if we are to save a generation of children.

The ad has just launched and we couldn’t be more proud of doing our bit to save a generation.


Relevance in 2020

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

I spend a lot of my time planning integrated campaigns with our clients, and the one thing everyone wants is to be relevant. To be part of the conversation that’s happening right now. And these days, that’s no mean feat. Our moods and conversations are swift, dynamic and transient. Social discourse is increasingly impermanent and hard to grasp, taking place in stories and snaps that are gone within hours or minutes. If you’ve ever seen a murmuration of starlings, shift and turn, I imagine it something like that. Millions of tiny pieces of content, flowing and changing each moment.

This year in particular, this has really hit home. How many months or years of planning were obliterated when the pandemic became the only story? I doubt anyone’s plans for 2020 bear much resemblance to the campaigns and appeals they have live right now. As marketers, we’ve started to realise how hard it is to predict our audiences – to be audience-led, when they keep slipping through our fingers. We create a campaign; gather insight, plan the media, develop the proposition, all to find the conversation’s moved on without us.

Take this week. Just when we thought we understood the media story, had a proposition around coronavirus we were starting to optimise; George Floyd. Overnight, our audiences’ attention and emotional charge has shifted. A vital, brutal conversation is happening that we cannot, should not, ignore.

What do we do, then? Because (and I say this with the greatest love for our dear sector) speed isn’t always our forte. Just doing things faster isn’t always an option. When we don’t know where the minds of our audiences will be from one day to the next, how can we be truly audience led? How can we plan? And how can we do it before the discourse has changed again?

I suggest, three things.

The first is a question to ask yourself repeatedly. Should we be telling this story? Does this campaign come from our most pressing and urgent organisational need? It’s great to be out fast with a relevant message, but get this wrong, and it could backfire horribly. If you don’t have a seat on that bandwagon, don’t jump on it.

The second is to be ready to pivot. It’s hard when we’ve spent months or even years planning activity to have it suddenly on hold. Forcing things through won’t help. If the flock has moved on, try to go with the flow and embrace where they are headed.

The third is the most radical but I think the most potent. If you do have the right story to tell, if, suddenly, the media is behind you, just get out there with something for your audiences to share, support or do. We don’t always need to craft a polished suite of ads to put in front of our audiences. Sometimes all that encourages is a passive action. We can activate them, let them get involved, and ask them to help create and share our campaign.

Platforms like TikTok are designed just for this. We can look to the music industry who are having massive advertising success on the platform, by letting the audience tell the story their way. Your deliverable here isn’t a film, it’s a brief for creators, that gives them the story to tell, the inspiration to get creative.

And you have to trust. They may want to flex your brand guidelines, let them. They might want to give in a different way, let them. This is where earned media and peer to peer lives. This is where viral lives. This is where #nomakeupselfie and Choose Love and Run 5k live. Colonel Tom didn’t have a campaign strategy. But NHS Charities Together told their story in a way that allowed everyone to play their part. There isn’t just one way to support that campaign, there are hundreds. The result is people sharing stories, and doing what they can, for a cause they believe in. Which is, in its purest, loveliest iteration, charity.

You may not end up with the campaign you intended, but if people have taken your story, and found their own way to tell it, share it and support it, isn’t that even better? Isn’t that totally and completely beautiful?

That’s why we’re developing new kinds of campaign strategies, that look beyond paid media and leave the door open for supporters.

If we really want to be relevant, we need to relinquish some control over to the people we are speaking to. They’re not just ‘target audiences’, they can be advocates, makers, dancers, volunteers and billboards if we give them a chance. If you really inspire them, they’ll do more for you, for free, than any paid media ever will. Be brave. Let them.

Amy Hutchings
Strategy DIrector

If you’re ready to let supporters tell your stories and would like to talk about how Open can help you develop a truly relevant campaign strategy, we’d love a chat, just ping us an email.


The right to play

Friday, April 3rd, 2020
Three weeks ago we were at Unicef. It was a day after Open had trialled working from home. It seems like a year ago. We talked about whether schools would close and whether there would be a lockdown. What this would mean for children?
 
We talked about what life would be like in ‘lockdown’ Britain and what Unicef could do to help children and their families. 
 
Over the next couple of days our teams talked and came up with some great ideas. Many of them were linked to offering free screen time content, because that is what we thought would be needed…
 
At this time a very good decision was made. WaitDon’t React. Respond.
 
Then the UK went into lockdown and life changed for us all. 
 
Attention turned to our families, neighbours and friends. Those close to us who need our care and support, those who we have never met ‘locked in’ – frightened and alone, and those who are putting their lives at risk everyday keeping the NHS, emergency services and our infrastructure going.
 
At Open we got busy developing emergency appeals for charities and the NHS whose frontline services were struggling to keep up with demand, and Unicef moved swiftly into their rapid response protocols. 
 
Meanwhile a very small team of Unicef and Open staff continued to think about an offer for young children and their families. Unicef sent out a short survey asking parents about their first few days of lockdown.  
 
And this is what they told us. 
 
“We don’t need more screen content. We certainly don’t need more educational resources and activities. We don’t all have screens, we don’t all have bandwidth that can handle everyone on line. We need ideas that kids can do away from screens, that are fun and quick to organise. That gives them time to relax and play and us time to get on with life and work.” 
 
And Unicef responded.
 
“Don’t worry, this is on us. Everyday, all round the world we help children in crisis, often without screens or internet. This is what we do. We make sure that children have the space, the resources and the right to play. We have great activities that we will send to you. We are here for children in crisis”.
 
 
Yesterday they were joined by friends at The Kite Factory to do a very rapid sprint that brought that idea to life. And today it goes live.
 
Not bad for a couple of weeks in lockdown….