Media: Strategy Analysis - Making blood an ethnic concern

Brand: National Blood Service

Client: Gavin Evans

Brief: Communicate the importance of blood donation to ethnic


Target audience: Socially conscious adults

Budget: Undisclosed


Media: Mark Eaves, Drum PHD/COI Communications

Creative: Drum PHD

Production company: DFG Films

Marketing support: Focus Consultancy

STRATEGY The National Blood Service identified that blood donation among ethnic minority groups is relatively low, while a broad ethnic mix brings clinical benefits. Drum PHD worked with the NBS to try to change fundamentally how this audience felt about giving blood. This called for an alternative to traditional response-led advertising.

The planning process identified TV as the lead communication channel.

Drum realised it needed to deliver a rich, emotive and detailed message.

Drum needed content that was vital, engaging and reminded people of their role in society. In short, the agency needed the NBS to get involved in generating TV programming.


PTelevision Drum approached Channel 4 and secured a short film slot (Monday to Thursday) after Channel 4 News for the week commencing 13 September.

The slot provided the perfect editorial context to reach a slightly younger but socially engaged audience. Drum worked with DFG Films to produce a series of four short documentary films. The creative approach was to try to explode some of the myths surrounding blood donation that perpetuate among different ethnic communities in the UK.

Examples of cultural barriers include low awareness of the relevance of blood donation to ethnic minorities and of what the donation process involves. DFG used young film-making talent from ethnic minorities, which gave the films a credible voice and innovative treatment. The first film, which was narrated by Alexei Sayle, is a general introduction to why blood donation matters. The other three explore specific issues relating to the South Asian, Chinese and Afro-Caribbean communities.

PDigital Channel 4 brought channel endorsement to the films by creating programme support materials. Each film was followed by a public announcement directing people to the NBS telephone helpline and a dedicated microsite on to find more information.

PPress Activity focused on getting as much coverage as possible in TV listings sections. This was helped by PR support that led to the project being picked up by the national press following a launch event at Millbank, at which the films were screened.

PSpecialist activity Focus Consultancy, a specialist marketing agency, is creating a marketing support programme for the strategy. The films will be shown on niche ethnic minority TV channels that act as reference points for communities. The films will also be used for grassroots educational initiatives.


Results are still being gathered but initial feedback suggests the NBS-funded TV content has been a success.

THE VERDICT - Gerry Boyle, managing director, ZenithOptimedia

COI Communications campaigns often present fantastic planning challenges requiring solutions that connect with those on the fringes of society or within distinct ethnic audiences. The recent campaign for the National Blood Service was no exception, and PHD's response was a cracker.

For the brief of encouraging ethnic minorities to give blood while maintaining reach against a broader group of UK citizens, PHD eschewed the traditional approach, which would probably have been "an engaging 30-second commercial with a strong call to action". It recognised the need to overcome the cultural barriers that cause reluctance to give blood in some audiences.

Now, there is much talk of advertiser- funded programming as a means of getting commercial messages out of the clutter of the break, outwitting those consumers who edit out ad breaks from their viewing patterns, or simply engaging consumers more deeply. In this instance, PHD has gone beyond the talk and executed the concept extremely well.

Collaboration with Channel 4 and DFG Films resulted in four brilliantly executed animated documentary-style films. In the first, the narrator, Alexei Sayle, brought a refreshing edge to what could have been perceived as a fairly dull subject. The animation makes the subject matter accessible to all. The next three films dealt with specific cultural barriers to blood donation from the South Asian, Chinese and Afro-Carribean communities.

Cleverly, DFG used young film-making talent from those communities to develop the films. Their credibility and innovation shines through in the educational, entertaining and engaging programmes.

The films were impressive in themselves but there was more to come. The content was used to inspire other marketing initiatives, including broadcast on ethnic TV channels to provide deeper reach into minority communities.

The films have also been streamed live on relevant websites. One can see how this can go on and on (DVDs of the films can be used as DM pieces).

With compelling content distributed in such relevant ways, this should help deliver the kind of step change that a more traditional response-led approach would have struggled to achieve.

SCORE: 4/5.

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