CAMPAIGN CRAFT: CRAFT SECRETS; Tight budgets force BFCS to explode its teddy on the cheap

The NSPCC campaign isn’t what it seems, apparently. Richard Cook investigates

The NSPCC campaign isn’t what it seems, apparently. Richard Cook


That advertising folk lie and deceive is now so well known as to be

almost a commonplace. Television programmes are made on the subject and

newspaper articles penned, but everyone, no matter how tarnished, has to

draw the line somewhere. That these people could possibly lie and

deceive for charity hardly bears thinking about at all.

But just ask BFCS about the campaign it has created for the NSPCC this

Christmas. Just ask them about the so-called exploding teddy bear and

see how far admen are prepared to go in their lies and deceptions these


In one of these NSPCC films, directed by Michael Seresin, we see a

number of harrowing shots of abused children against the backdrop of the

Chris Rea song, Tell me There’s a Heaven. Among them is a frightened

little girl sitting on the floor. Her fear is explained in a flashback

showing her teddy bear exploding as it is slammed against the wall. The

ad ends with her sitting outside her house in the rain, cradling her

broken bear.

It’s an undeniably powerful film, and because it was for charity the

director donated his time, prop hire firms came gallantly to the rescue

and everyone pitched in. In the end, that film and its companion piece,

directed by John O’Donnell, were made for pounds 30,000 instead of the

hundreds of thousands they might ordinarily have cost to shoot. And the

lies and deception. Well, that ain’t no teddy bear.

In fact, the production team saved the pounds 1,000 a special effects

company might have charged to stuff the poor animal with mini-explosives

and have it disgorge its contents in spectacular fashion against the


‘Basically, what we did was to buy a few pounds 10 rucksacks - the ones

that look like teddies - from Woolies. We cut their stomachs open,

stuffed them with straw and then removed the zips and partially sewed

them up again,’ the producer, Cleo Hodgkinson, explains. ‘Then we shot

the sequence of them slamming into the wall at high speed to make it

look as dramatic as possible.’

The team also managed to deceive the viewer with an imaginative choice

of location.

They were looking for a range of interiors that reflected different

income levels. This time, space was the problem, as accommodating film

crews in the flats that the team originally scouted was proving


The solution was an abandoned mental hospital near Epsom in Surrey,

which the set decorator, Marianne Ford, miraculously transformed into

the ad’s various sets. This she did basically by sprucing up the

desolate and rubbish-strewn rooms into various stages of disrepair. The

rooms may look dismal enough in the finished shots, but this is actually

the work of BFCS volunteers who had to clean up rooms that were knee-

deep in newspapers and broken glass with paint peeling off the walls.