Case study: Barnardo's

The children's charity's abuse campaign Cut Them Free focuses on control

Barnardo's campaign
Barnardo's campaign

The purpose of Cut Them Free, the campaign by the child welfare charity Barnardo's launched in January, was to bring the issue of child sexual exploitation to the attention of the public and the government, according to Laura Payne, head of campaigns at the charity.

She says it has already succeeded in its key objective of persuading the government to take the issue more seriously. Following a "flood of letters" in support of the campaign, it has been announced that the children's minister, Tim Loughton, will be responsible for the creation of a national action plan to tackle child sexual exploitation.

That was the first phase. The second will be to continue to communicate to the public the scale of child sexual abuse and to let supporters know they can do something about it by joining the campaign. Four thousand people have already signed up - the highest-ever total for a Barnardo's campaign.

The campaign consists of a web page, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. The charity is planning other activities over the coming year to encourage more people to sign up.

The contract to work on the campaign was won by the communications agency Forster in September 2010. It spent three months developing it, with a budget of £17,000.

This process involved a series of expert briefings with Barnardo's staff and a desk research programme to look into the issue, the wider policy arena and the target audience.

Athena Lamnisos, board director at Forsters, says that Barnardo's wanted the campaign to be attention-grabbing and to provoke a response, but also felt that it was important not to isolate or exclude people by making the content too disturbing.

"The team decided to focus on the link between exploitation and control, using the imagery of the puppet - those who are being exploited are not in control of their own actions," says Lamnisos.

"This led to a positive message that, through this campaign, people could help to cut abused children free of their exploiters."

As a result, Cut Them Free was adopted as the name of the campaign. Lamnisos says: "On the campaign website, puppet strings are used to hold up exploited children like puppets, and supporters of the campaign are encouraged to cut them free'."


Sean Kinmont, creative director, 23redI find it hard to think of a more emotionally challenging brief than to come up with a campaign about the sexual exploitation of children. Clearly this issue needs to be handled with sensitivity and understanding, and I think that Barnardo's and Forster have achieved this with their Cut Them Free campaign.

The creative shows children entangled in ropes, like puppets on strings, with a call to action to "cut them free". There has been a strong initial response to this campaign and I believe it's mainly the fresh creative that is responsible for this.

The images of the children caught up in the ropes carry a sense of both helplessness and inevitability. The children seem resigned to their fate, rather than struggling against their puppeteers. The images make you want to get involved, to release the children from their bonds.


Creativity: 4

Delivery: 5


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