Media: Strategy Analysis - Making autism count with radio day

Brand: The National Autistic Society Brief: Recruit donors for The National Autistic Society Target audience: Radio listeners Budget: Undisclosed AGENCIES Media: MC&C Creative: Watson Phillips Norman, Radioworks PR: Symbiosis, Radioworks Response handling: Watson Phillips Norman


The National Autistic Society is the leading charity for people with autism and their families, and helps around 100,000 people each year.

Autism affects around 500,000 people in the UK but while awareness of autism is high (84 per cent), understanding is low.

The NAS brief was to recruit 7,500 committed donors, within an integrated campaign that would strengthen the brand. This was made possible with funding from Vodafone as part of an ongoing cause partnership with the NAS.

The campaign was built on the concept: "Make autism count." To maximise a limited media budget, it focused on a single medium in a single day to create an event and achieve cut-through. This was co-ordinated with editorial coverage and the first national survey of autism in the UK.

It also fell on a day following other high-profile NAS events and media activity, maximising short-term awareness and creating an "integrated" campaign.

MC&C and Watson Phillips Norman had developed the "big idea". They then got together with Radioworks, the Radio Advertising Bureau, the Commercial Radio Companies Association, Independent Radio News, Emap and Adstream to work to pull the campaign together.


- Radio: Working with the network initiatives group at the RAB, plus Radioworks, MC&C offered to book airtime on all commercial radio stations in the UK if the radio industry as a body would commit to supporting the day. The response was very supportive.

WPN created 14 ads featuring celebrities from Jane Asher to Tony Blackburn.

Emap dedicated a studio for the day to the recordings and Adstream played the ads to 306 stations for a fraction of the normal cost.

The campaign effectively "owned" commercial radio for the whole of 26 September. Some 306 stations each played 30 ads across the day - giving 45 per cent cover of all UK adults.

- PR: Radioworks worked with the NAS's in-house PR team to create press packs, generate stories and recruit spokespeople for each station group.

It then worked with the stations to create PR opportunities. The CRCA sent an electronic press pack to all stations. IRN recorded news items for all its stations. PR activity resulted in more than 150 interviews and 200 news items. This amounted to two days of coverage, across 240 stations with more than 40 spokespeople and case studies from every corner of the UK.

- Response: WPN arranged response handling across phone, web and text.

- Online: Every station gave the campaign a link from its website to a dedicated microsite,


On the day itself, around 36,000 responses were received. By 4 October, this had risen to 54,551 unique responses to the website, calls or texts.

As of 4 October, 33,794 completed or requested surveys (completed online, requested by text and phone) had been received.

All of the respondents will be entered in a donor development programme created by WPN.

In addition, the NAS Autism Helpline, information centre and website recorded record numbers of callers and visitors in one day. More one-off donations were taken and more members joined the NAS in the week following the campaign than had been received before.

THE VERDICT - Jo Sutherland communications planning director, Carat

It is great to see work being done for such a worthwhile cause and it is a refreshing pleasure to be reviewing a charitable campaign.

I really liked the title for this campaign, "make autism count", and didn't know whether it was a deliberate pun on the fact that autistic people are often meant to be brilliant mathematicians?

Films such as Rain Man have perpetuated this belief, and I am not even sure if it is true. Regardless of the validity, it would have been great if the campaign explored many of the myths around autism and helped to reveal the truth. Anyway, what about the campaign?

Committing an entire budget to one day of activity to make an unmissable campaign is a bold move. It is often difficult to persuade clients to take steps such as this, but the agency cleared the first hurdle and sold the concept.

MC&C succeeded in delivering the "unmissable" campaign. Running 30 different ads across 306 radio stations appears to be a good start. For me, though, the really neat part of this campaign is integrating PR and media to work together. It sounds as though MC&C worked closely with the PR agency and that they managed to get a great deal of PR value from the press packs that were sent out. The PR coverage will have really given editorial time to explain about autism and raise awareness.

This campaign is a great example of taking a simple approach to solving a problem. I do, however, have a couple of observations on the approach.

The aim was to recruit 7,500 "committed donors". Did MC&C do any work to identify who is most likely to become a committed donor, either demographically or attitudinally? It would have been great to see how it went about identifying the most likely donors and then the rationale in selecting radio to reach them.

MC&C talks about funding from Vodafone, which is great. It would, however, have been great to see the Vodafone link explored further. The agency could have used direct mail/SMS to send their customers autism facts.

All in all, this seems like a really good campaign and, given that it generated 36,000 responses, it appears to have worked. That is if 7,500 of them became "committed donors". Where do I sign up?

SCORE: 3.5/5.

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