Media: Strategy Analysis - Save the Children sticks to its aims

Brand: Save the Children
Client: Joe Barrell, head of communications
Brief: Get public support for free healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa;
pressure world leaders to take action
Target audience: Urbanites and young families
Budget: Undisclosed

Media: Monkey Communications
Creative: Monkey Communications
Others: Open Outdoor (outdoor and guerilla); M2M (press and online);
Ymogem (mobile marketing)


In sub-Saharan Africa, 285,000 children die each year because of the cost to their families for proper healthcare. World leaders have committed themselves to help wipe these costs out, but nothing of any substance has been achieved to date. There is unrest surfacing among campaigners, and also over the idea that leaders need to be challenged on why they haven't delivered on their promises.

Save the Children picked the 2006 G8 summit in July as the time to start campaigning. The goal was to get a response from Gordon Brown and/or Tony Blair, and for them to renew their vow to solve the situation.

A campaign was needed to highlight a show of solidarity from the British public and reveal its growing displeasure at the situation, and support for Save the Children's mission.

With a limited budget, the client asked for a campaign that would work across internal and external communications, from fundraising and policy-making to media and PR.

A sticking plaster was chosen as the central focus. A (visual mnemonic) euphemism, representing the idea of healing, as well as being the simplest form of medical care, and one that UK families use all the time.

Monkey created a mechanic to raise awareness across a range of groups - from readers of the Daily Mail, families and urban types, right through to journalists and the media, the corporate world and politicians. The campaign needed to place the issue in the minds of key influencers, from Jonathan Ross mentioning it on his radio show to somebody discussing it in a pub or raising the subject in an online chatroom.


- Mobile: The campaign centred on a red plaster with the word "ouch" printed on it, which was supported by the cheeky call to action: "Where will you stick yours?" People were encouraged to demonstrate their support by texting the word "ouch" to a central number, as well as sticking the plaster somewhere, taking a photograph of it using their phones and then sending it in. This was the first MMS campaign used by a charity.

- Outdoor: The plasters were attached to more than 250,000 campaign postcards, some of which were handed out to people in mainline railway stations on the day of action. This was supported by a TV ad on plasma screens in the termini. Others were used at music festivals and other large events. The "ouch" plasters were also made available online for campaigners and the general public.

- PR: Midge Ure was the first famous person to wear one when he went to Sierra Leone for Save the Children. He made a short film which became one of the main news topics across TV news broadcasts. Other celebrities followed suit, including indie bands such as The Kooks and Franz Ferdinand. Actors from the BBC TV drama series Casualty and the long-running children's favourite Blue Peter were also seen wearing them.

- Online: Other activities in the "ouch" campaign included an online "overlay" campaign. Executions "fly-posted" websites with a plaster, which peeled when the mouse rolled over it. Press activity and ambient executions were also added (the latter featured fake broken windows in Save the Children shops "repaired" with a big plaster, as well as huge projections on buildings around Westminster).


The campaign garnered widespread news coverage, accrued thousands of texts and assembled an online gallery full of photos. Tony Blair also mentioned it in his keynote speech about Africa, one year on from Live 8, the G8 summit and the Make Poverty History rally.

The UK Department of International Development even felt moved to post a response to the campaign on its website. It welcomed the campaign and agreed that the issue of health fees needed to be tackled.

Major press coverage across TV, radio and print media helped to triple mentions of Save the Children, compared with a similar period in 2005.

THE VERDICT - Marie Oldham, strategy director, Media Planning Group UK

More than a year has passed since we were asked to Make Poverty History, and July 2006's G8 summit has come and gone. We all know that governments have not exactly been true to their word, but we also know that issues such as Third-World debt, corruption and access to healthcare are about to get some high-profile debate in the media. Was July the right time for Save the Children to join the media circus? Could it stand out and offer a focused message? The answers are "of course it should" and "of course it did".

Overall, it struck me that Save the Children had learned a lot from the people-power that made Make Poverty History work. It used this insight to deliver a campaign where real people were the main media channel. Using screens at music festivals brought the campaign back to the audience, who are behind the major shift in how we think about Third-World debt and the personal responsibility of those in the developed world to speak up for those in the Third World.

However, I was specifically asked to review the media strategy; it took me a long time to separate the creative strategy from the media strategy. Was the sticking plaster part of the creative idea or part of the media strategy? Was it that the PR people just did a great job? Or was it the celebrity support? Off I went to Save the Children's website (more stuff about the "ouch" campaign) and then to (via some very "interesting" websites with monkey in the title!).

I was convinced that Monkey had found the Holy Grail. By coming up with the plaster, it developed a strategy which made the campaign more resonant, more interactive, empowering for consumers and a dream for the PR team. The fact it also implemented great new-media ideas via MMS and "fly-posting" on websites was almost a no-brainer - once you had the plaster.

Making a small budget work hard in London is a simple thought for any campaign so dependent on opinion-formers and governments for success. But it is rarely as well executed as this.

Taking the plaster into the windows of the Save the Children stores is one of those ideas often talked about, but seldom delivered. The campaign strikes me as a good agency working closely with a good client.

Score: 4 out of 5.

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