INTEGRATED: MARKETING CHALLENGE; Barnardos opts for integration to overcome charity fatigue

Getting the balance right for through-the-line work on charity accounts is key, Michele Martin discovers

Getting the balance right for through-the-line work on charity accounts

is key, Michele Martin discovers

One of the strongest advertising images from the sweltering summer of

’95 was the disturbing face of a pasty, dark-haired girl under the

headline ‘made in Britain’. The ad, for Barnardos, was proof that not

everyone was having fun in the sun and reminded revellers that ‘Poverty

is a fact of life for one in four children.’

The charity’s advertising, from the integrated ad agency, Maher Bird

Associates, may have been one of the key elements in repositioning

Barnardos as a modern pressure group back in June, but it was certainly

not the only factor. In fact the ‘giving children a chance’ campaign

proved that charities have understood the power of integration for

years, driven by tight budgets and growing public ‘compassion fatigue’.

With a very small media spend at its disposal, Barnardos and MBA used

every trick in the book to get the message across. The ads themselves

were launched with a massive PR campaign promoting the Mori report, The

Facts of Life, which revealed that 90 per cent of adults thought kids

had a harder time now than they had had when they were youngsters.

Having warmed up the media, MBA then worked with the PR agency, Kinross

and Render, to launch the actual ads a few days later, bringing in the

boxer, Chris Eubank, to unveil the work. At the same time, more than 300

Barnardos shops nationwide were decked out in the campaign’s distinctive

green and white livery to reinforce the message, and 750,000 homes were

mailed with fundraising letters.

While a campaign like Barnardos’ proves that charities understand the

need to take messages through the line, getting the balance right is not

always easy. Alan Booth, the Barnardos’ head of publicity, admits that

its advertising before MBA’s arrival was ad hoc and observes that

generally: ‘The organisation of a charity is likely to be less focused

than that of a commercial company and an organisation often promotes an

array of messages as a result. The final decision on advertising is

often taken by someone who doesn’t know a lot about the subject.’

One crucial factor in Barnardos’ success was the fact that both the

agency and client treated the exercise like a commercial brief. Stephen

Maher, managing director of MBA, explains: ‘Barnardos is a bit like

another of our clients, Next, where we do the main work and find ways of

taking it in-store.’

Barnardos and MBA teamed up 18 months ago, when the agency spun off from

Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow and Johnson, taking the account with it

from the shop’s former below-the-line outfit, Matador. The charity had

re-defined its aims nearly two years earlier when Booth first joined,

with the intention of stamping out its image as an organisation devoted

to running children’s homes - an activity it scrapped years ago.

In order to deliver a realistic picture of the charity’s work, MBA’s

joint creative director, Steve Deput, went to observe projects for

himself. The trawl lead to a brainstorming session back at the agency

similar to that for any other client, producing the ‘giving children a

chance’ strapline and generating the decision to emphasise Barnardos’

corporate colours and commission stark, unemotional photography from the

war photographer, Don McCullen.

The central idea has since been applied to all literature and

advertising, either by MBA itself or Barnardos’ in-house communications

and fundraising departments. This year’s campaign focuses specifically

on poverty, a theme that the charity feels it can develop in future


Finding the right proposition may have been central to the campaign’s

effectiveness, but the on-going relationship with MBA has been equally

important, Booth says. ‘We’ve worked very closely on our plans with the

agency, particularly while putting together the Mori survey. This latest

batch of creative work was driven by the survey as findings emerged.’

And without such co-operation, Booth believes the campaign may have

become too sentimental. He concludes: ‘Presenting our kids as homeless

and helpless would just have made their position worse. We hope this

work has made people think about issues they might otherwise have


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