Fundraising: Case study - Tsunami coverage boosts RSPCA ad

Francois Le Goff

Summary

With initial results showing much higher audience response rates than in previous campaigns, the RSPCA believes its latest DRTV advert may have benefited from the massive media attention to the tsunami appeal, which was launched at the same time.

Background

Launched not long after Christmas, the DRTV clip uses footage from Channel 4 series Pet Rescue and BBC1's Animal Hospital showing unwanted and injured animals being nursed by charity staff.

Called Promises, the advert is the second to be created by fundraising agency Whitewater since the RSPCA recruited it in August. The aim is to promote the caring and protective aspects of the RSPCA brand that is highlighted in the two TV series mentioned above.

How it worked

The advert starts with a voiceover explaining the aims and objectives of the charity. It then goes on to ask viewers to pledge £3 a month to help maintain its animal care services.

Promises was mainly broadcast on satellite and cable channels, although it did appear on selected terrestrial channels such as ITV North and Five.

The RSPCA targeted channels with medium-sized audiences to suit the handling capacity of its call centres.

Two 90-second versions of the advert were produced. The first relied on a voiceover that gave details of the animals' stories and was followed by a 10-second 'tail', a reminder near the end of that particular set of commercial breaks. The second, which received approval from the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre to air on children's channels, appealed to a younger audience. This used softer images and was accompanied by the Bread song Everything I Own.

"We've been focusing on keeping production costs down for clients developing DRTV ads," said Helen Hamilton, account director at Whitewater. "This was no exception: we used existing footage, edited and produced the ad in-house and personally supervised the music recording. The process was remarkably smooth."

Results

Asked whether the advert might have been affected by the tsunami appeal that went out at the same time, Hamilton said: "We pulled it from ITV news because people were watching constant news coverage of the disaster on the channel. But we decided to keep it on most other channels, especially cable and satellite ones such as Paramount."

Hamilton added that the tsunami appeal might even have had a positive effect on donors' responses. "If you are an animal welfare donor, you are always going to give anyway," she said. "I think that those people who would have seen pictures of animals affected by the tsunami would still have wanted to give to the RSPCA."

RSPCA press officer Rebecca Ralph said: "It is still early days in terms of analysing response. We are awaiting figures from the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board, but top-line results show an 80 per cent increase on previous results."

Louise Richmond, donor recruitment marketing manager at the RSPCA, said: "We're delighted with the outcome, given that Whitewater developed the ad from a simple box of videotapes."

EXPERT VIEW - NICK THOMAS, creative director, Target Direct

Speaking as someone who has made several DRTV commercials for charities far less photogenic than the RSPCA, I thought this would have been a doddle.

The agency didn't have to worry about filming anything new - its task was to edit together some videos found in a box. Yet the finished commercial is a fine effort. Although it explores nothing new in the genre, it stands as a piece of copybook charity DRTV.

It opens with the familiar scenario of heartless owners who have abandoned or abused their pets. These animals "have given their love and loyalty without question or complaint" - the best line in the commercial - and have had their promise of a happy life broken. This sequence features adorable animals played in super-slow motion - it makes the most of every floppy ear.

Here's the clever bit. It's heavily implied that if those watching want to dissociate themselves from these lazy, sadistic promise-breakers, they had better sign up now. With a promise of £3 a month they can "heal the hurt" and fulfil the RSPCA's promise to keep these furry beauties safe.

This sequence is sprinkled with shots of the heroes at the RSPCA hard at work. Purists might question the quality of the imagery, but the homespun feel suits the subject perfectly - as does the choice of music, Bread's evocative Everything I Own.

Making an ad that asks for support for abused cute animals may not seem the most taxing agency brief. But this treatment is a good example of how to get it right. And, crucially in this medium, all at a low cost.

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