Workshop: Case Study - VSO campaign elicits eager response

Francois Le Goff

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Background: Each year, overseas aid charity VSO sends around 750 volunteers to the world's poorest countries. The charity recruits volunteers whose professional skills match the needs of its local partners. But these needs have evolved and the projects VSO supports no longer only require health and education professionals but also people with financial and management skills. Over recent years, demand for such skills has more than doubled and has grown a further 30 per cent this year alone - the number of volunteers needed totalling 223.

This, together with a survey from human resources company Development Dimensions International that reveals that a third of Britons are bored at work and looking for new challenges, prompted VSO to recruit finance and management professionals through an advertising campaign.

Aims: The campaign was advertised on London Underground in February, targeting 26-39-year-old professionals living in the capital and its suburbs. It aimed to draw on their feelings of dissatisfaction when they were on their way to work and were looking for something more meaningful and fulfilling in their lives.

"We chose to advertise on the Tube, where people are likely to be feeling fed up with their everyday routine, particularly at that time of the year," said Glyn Williams, head of communications at VSO.

The campaign's objective was also to tell these young people that third-world countries not only lack basic services like education and healthcare, but also the management skills to run them efficiently.

How it worked: Because most commuters have time to read on the Tube, ad agency Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw created a poster featuring a lengthy text with a yellow background devised to challenge their present professional and personal life.

Research carried out ahead of the campaign identified VSO's target group as resilient, resourceful and flexible, made up of people who dream about changing their life but never quite get round to it. With the phrase: "You stood up not because there were no seats but to be counted. To say you wanted to make a difference. This is your chance", the text prompted them take that extra step.

The poster appeared in 4,000 London Underground train carriage panels for around four weeks at a cost of around £60,000 in February this year.

Results: The charity received 283 enquiries from young professionals with the relevant skills, exceeding its initial target of 200. VSO now wants to build on the February campaign by displaying a second series of posters on Tube trains at the end of this month.

"The success of the campaign is a result of the strong narrative and visual impact, combined with its timing and position within the commuter environment," said Williams. "The May adverts are targeting those who saw the February ones and were motivated by the idea, but did not take any action or did not go further than a telephone enquiry."

The second poster focuses on the trivia of everyday life, with the media often feeding the public ludicrous stories such as celebrity affairs or revolutionary diets, and reminds commuters that they can still change their lives by volunteering for VSO.

Williams believes that a reminder message and a strong call to action will have an impact on those still wavering.

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