Bookstart is a national programme that is run by literacy charity Booktrust. It aims to provide a free pack of books to every baby in the UK and to encourage parents and carers to enjoy books with their children.
The charity received £800,000 in government funding to produce an advertising campaign encouraging men to read to their children. The campaign was particularly intended to target fathers from ethnic minorities, single parents, people with basic skills needs and parents of children with disabilities.
The campaign, which consisted of television and radio adverts, ran for three weeks in June 2008. The TV adverts showed illustrations of fathers and children having adventures together while they shared a book.
Why this medium?
The TV adverts were shown in the evenings on digital stations such as comedy channel Dave.
"We hoped it would grab men's attention," says Rosemary Clarke, director of Bookstart. "Digital stations offer good deals, which were useful because we were working on a tight budget."
Communicating the message
The charity held focus groups with fathers to decide how best to target them. "The dads told us they didn't want to be preached to or made to feel like they were doing something wrong by not reading to their children," says Clarke. "They know it's usually the mums who do the storytelling, and they need to be encouraged to change this rather than being browbeaten.
"We hoped the illustrations would encourage fathers to see things from a child's point of view. Many parents see reading as a literacy exercise, but we want them to realise it's about the experience for children too, and can be an adventure. We decided the illustrations communicated this well."
Did it work?
The charity says the response rate to the campaign was 0.02 per cent and that it received about 40,000 text messages asking for books. Research for the charity showed the ‘hard-to-reach' fathers that the campaign targeted were 65 per cent more likely to respond to the adverts than the rest of the population.
Giles Robertson, Director, Green Banana Marketing
I like the way this thoughtful campaign has been developed. The advert will catch dads as they’re sitting in front of Top Gear with a beer and a paper rather than spending time with their children, so it might just prick their consciences or inspire them subliminally.
A lot of charities, including the NSPCC and Action for Children, have used animation in their ad campaigns. But I think these adverts are particularly effective because of the contrast they present to the rest of the content on Dave, the channel they were shown on.
For me, the advert needed an end line to link the ideas together, but on the whole I think this was a fantastic campaign. The idea is great: it’s got legs and it deserves to do well. But I’m biased, because my family still uses the famous Bookstart bag to pick up books from our library.