#OneMillionClaps, one year on

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021
Two children stand outside of their front door. They are clapping. On the path in front of them, 'Thank you NHS' is written in pink and blue chalk,

– Sam Hibbard-Daniels, Senior Account Director


The highs and lows of our Covid year are something we’ll look back on for a lifetime. We baked Sourdough and we won zoom quizzes. We fought furlough, and many of us lost loved ones.

For NHS Charities Together (NHS CT) the highs and lows of 2020 were no different.  While our NHS workers were on the front line saving lives, NHS Charities Together was fundraising at scale for their ongoing support. 

Back in spring 2020, as we stood on our doorsteps to clap and cheer in celebration of our brilliant NHS, in awe of their fight against Covid-19,  at Open, we were hatching plans to turn this community moment into a multi-million-pound campaign for NHS Charities Together. 

And we had to act fast.

Unlike many of our international charity clients, prepared for natural disasters, earthquakes and fires, and who have robust and tested emergency processes in place, NHS Charities Together were responding to something unlike anything any of us had experienced.

Our audience insight was right in front of us. We were being told to stay home and do nothing. But everyone wanted to do something. The public were already showing their support and solidarity every Thursday night. We knew that with the right opportunity to give, we could turn this into valuable financial support for NHS Charities Together. 

And so, the #OneMillionClaps campaign was launched.

Using the OMG Text Giving platform, we asked the public to text ‘CLAP’, plus a message of support, sending an immediate £5 donation to NHS CT. In order to ensure the message then got to their local trust, they received a reply asking them for their details at which point we also had the opportunity to Gift Aid and ask for further consent – which an amazing 42% of people opted to do!

At Open we believe in bringing the right people together to change the world… so that’s exactly what happened! At the heart of the campaign was our hero DRTV ad, shot in the lockdown restrictions by colleagues, team members and extended family. We also created digital content, social posts and print press, and collaborated with colleagues, celebrities, media partners, brands, and most importantly, the generous general public.

The campaign continued to grow, and the support from the public, brands and media alike was phenomenal. As well as the fabulous David Walliams recording our voiceover for the DRTV, brands who had pulled their own advertising during the pandemic were generous in stepping forward to show their support. North Face kindly donated unused TV broadcast space during the period, National press space, including ads in The Guardian and The Evening Standard was given to us at no cost.

With the support of gifted media space, high profile celebrities and promotion on social channels, we then partnered with ITV day time, to partner as their official charity to celebrate and support the NHS CT, with presenters promoting our donation number, and themselves sending messages of thanks and gratitude to our NHS staff.

While thousands of people gave nationally across other platforms, our CLAP text and response mechanic allows us to build future meaningful relationships with our donors. We were able to send them a great big thank you in the spring for their support. They were the first to be invited to our Big Tea event in the summer. And they’ll be the first to hear about our upcoming fundraising events this year.

As with all successful campaigns, being able to continue the conversation with your donors, making them feel important and showing what a difference they have made to your causes, is vital in securing future donations. 

In fact, we’re not done.  NHS Charities Together will be the people we reach out to with the new spring 2021 campaign, demonstrating the ongoing need for support for our fabulous NHS staff. The campaign, inviting donors to ‘Be There for Them’ will continue the conversation around the ongoing challenges the NHS staff are facing following the third spike, and how the public’s valuable donations can make a real difference.

It’s live now. If you see it, share and donate where you can.

At Open, we know that collaboration is key in creating successful campaigns. Whether that’s bringing together the power of technology, audience insight and tailor-made creative, or whether it’s the coming together of teams and skills with a united vision.

If you’d like to talk to us about your fundraising challenges, or to tell us about your Covid year, arrange a coffee (or tea) with us.

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.