Case study: Head-turning, not stomach-churning

Amnesty International raised £145,000 in July 2006 from a direct mail campaign to warm supporters. The campaign highlighted allegations of torture by the US military against detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Organisation: Amnesty International
Different Kettle


Amnesty published a report, Cruel. Inhuman. Degrades us all. Stop Torture and Ill Treatment in the 'War on Terror', which included testimonies from former detainees in sites around the world. The testimonies suggested torture had been used regularly by the US military.

The organisation created the direct mail campaign to coincide with the report's publication and to keep supporters informed about its campaigning for human rights in the war on terror.

How it worked

The campaign had a fundraising target of £120,000. A mail pack was sent to 65,000 warm supporters. It comprised a campaign card, a personal letter from Kate Allen, UK director of Amnesty, describing the evidence collected and the campaign's objectives, and a booklet featuring transcripts of testimonials. The letter asked supporters to fill in and return the campaign card to urge the US government to change its policy and investigate alleged abuses.

The pack's creative design was based on a testimonial from Martin Mubanga, a UK national held at Guantanamo Bay between 2002 and 2004. Mubanga described a prison guard dousing him in his own urine with a mop. The envelope featured a photograph of a string mop, with the caption "an instrument of torture"; the campaign card featured the same image with a call on the US government to "clean up your act".

Supporters were asked for donations to help fund the campaign according to their previous levels of giving.


The pack raised £145,000, £25,000 above its target. After initial success, it was sent to a further 85,000 supporters in November 2006.

The creative work has also been converted into a reactivation pack mailed to lapsed donors to encourage them to renew their support for Amnesty.

Rachel Doughty, direct marketing manager at Amnesty, said: "It can be difficult to explain and illustrate the issue of torture without making it so shocking that people can't read the stories - but this pack managed it."

Expert view

Steve Stretton, creative partner, Archibald Ingall Stretton

It's unusual to begin a review of a charity campaign by heaping praise on its art direction, but this highly arresting pack deserves a bit of a eulogy.

There's a justifiable reason why this sector tends not to invest in the craft side of communication: photography can be prohibitively expensive, and a slick-looking pack doesn't convey a message that money is being saved for the 'real' work. But this piece proves that it can be worth the expense.

The outer - a dark, graphic, full-bleed image of a steaming mop - is genuinely intriguing. The lines "an instrument of torture" and "made in the USA" are difficult to ignore. The brochure inside maintains the mood, with each page featuring a quote from a different victim of torture alongside a powerful, horrifying case study.

A minor quibble would be that the brochure's pay-off line - a quote explaining how the mop was used to torture a Guantanamo Bay detainee - doesn't appear on the cover. To me, this is a missed trick, but the accounts of torture are so vivid that they need little help to grab the reader's attention.

It's a potent piece of work, and the strong returns justify the effort.

Creativity: 4
Delivery: 4
Overall: 8 out of 10

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