Media: Highlighting plight of children in care

Brand: National Adoption Week Client: British Association for Adoption and Fostering Brief: Raise awareness of the need for permanent homes for thousands of children Target audience: Policy-makers, opinion-formers, national and regional news editors, local authorities Budget: Pro bono AGENCY Media/creative: FCB London


At the beginning of National Adoption Week, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering had two goals: to find adoptive parents for those children waiting for permanent homes, and to highlight the lack of stability for the thousands of children in care.

The first objective was already well covered thanks to the support the BAAF received from high-profile media partners such as The Sun and GMTV.

The annual push has always proved to be a successful part of the BAAF's efforts to find families for the 4,000 children in care waiting to be adopted. Combining the reach and influence of the UK's leading tabloid with the UK's biggest breakfast magazine show provided an outstanding platform for raising awareness of the issue among potential adoptive parents.

The communications brief, therefore, focused on the second objective.

Many children, for whom adoption is the plan, may never find a "forever family" because of a lack of adoptive parents - this is a particular problem for older children, children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and groups of brothers and sisters. Other children will move from one foster placement to another because of a huge shortfall in foster carers across the UK.

The BAAF's overall aim was to minimise disruption for children placed with foster carers. It therefore encouraged local authorities to allow suitable foster carers to upgrade to become approved adopters. That way, if efforts to return the child to its natural home failed, the foster carer would be able to adopt directly, minimising upheaval for the child.

The BAAF's regional press conferences that took place throughout National Adoption Week to publicise this issue required a contextual backdrop to maximise the absorption of the message.


The approach was simple: a stark message presented in a stark manner, using the poster medium in a lateral way.

Two executions were developed and deployed literally to demonstrate the damage caused by the transient nature of many adoptive children's placement experiences.

The poster was moved every two days around key poster sites in London, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow. The rips and tears resulting from the poster's untimely reposting acted as a metaphor for the damage caused by the all-too- frequent rehousing of children in care.

In a similar vein, the complementary execution, "Being constantly moved around can break a child's heart", saw poster panels successively moved from one 48-sheet site to its immediate neighbour.

The sight of partially posted sites and torn, shabby sheets on normally pristine billboards added to the visual impact of the campaign.


The primary objective of this campaign was not to encourage enquiries from potential adoptive parents, but rather to get the issue of adoption on the political agenda and topical radar. In this sense, the campaign complemented the BAAF's PR activities, as it became a strong visual hook that was referenced in much of the extensive coverage that National Adoption Week received.

In fact, the poster executions received specific mentions in The Times and on BBC news and five news as well as coverage in local media including the Glasgow Evening Times.

The posters bolstered the BAAF's lobbying efforts and prompted Maria Eagle, the minister for children, young people and families, to say: "We welcome the attention that BAAF has drawn to the need for improved placement stability for looked-after children: this is a key target for the Government from the last spending review.

Secure and stable attachments, including through the use of adoption, are essential to children's well-being."


Matt Andrews joint managing director, Vizeum UK

There seems to be a week for everything these days. In fact, in 2006, there are more than 52 "national weeks". It's going to be another busy year.

A quick browse on Google reveals that "Farmhouse Breakfast Week" is closely followed by "Food Allergy and Intolerance Week" while "Eating Disorders Week" is followed by "National Chip Week" which, in turn, is followed by "Obesity Awareness Week". All this while I am embarking on my January detox!

The diversity of "national weeks" from the serious to the trivial, as well as the sheer number of them these days, has no doubt had a detrimental effect on their ability to capture the attention and imagination of media and public alike. That's why I like this campaign for National Adoption Week, which highlighted the lack of stability for the thousands of children in care.

It recognises the need for an idea to give all other communications throughout the week impact and resonance. It delivers one brilliantly.

A PR campaign of national partnerships with GMTV and The Sun, alongside regional press conferences, was lifted off the page and into public consciousness with a simple idea that shows medium and message working seamlessly to deliver the campaign idea. What is great about this campaign is that it demonstrates the power of media and creative integration at its best.

The idea is not the poster, the idea is the poster and the way the medium is used.

By using the site as a metaphor for the home and the poster as a metaphor for children in care, the campaign dramatised the issue by moving posters to new sites with the resulting damage clear for all to see.

While it is unlikely that many passers-by will have managed to take out the fullness of the message (especially as the payoff "like thousands of kids in care, this poster will be moved again tomorrow" is in such small type), this is not the point.

What is important is that it provides a talking point for the week and a photo opportunity that will resonate through press conferences, chatshows, press articles and in turn the press clippings and discussions of policy-makers and local authorities will help to make National Adoption Week not just another national week.

SCORE: Four out of five.

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