Case study: Anthony Nolan

The blood cancer charity's latest advertising campaign targeted an unreceptive audience

Anthony Nolan's latest campaign
Anthony Nolan's latest campaign

The blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan decided to use its latest campaign to encourage more young men to join the bone marrow register.

The multimedia push, called We'd Rather ..., was intended to raise awareness of blood cancer among the target audience, because the charity's bone marrow register has a shortage of men between the ages of 16 and 30. It considers that demographic to be the best bone marrow donors.

The campaign was launched in December and ran until the end of February. It was used in various situations to explain that the charity has to advertise, even though it would rather not. It included adverts in gyms with the tagline "We'd rather be in the pub"; the online adverts were deliberately intrusive, but explained that they were necessary because blood cancer had not been beaten. They featured the statement "Yeah, we hate these adverts too" and encouraged users to tear down the advert and join the bone marrow register.

"The adverts are deliberately interruptive," says Chrystyna Chymera, marketing manager at Anthony Nolan. "We understand that young men don't want to be advertised to, so we played on that to get our message across."

The campaign included adverts on the radio, on Spotify, in Topman stores, in gyms and online. "We used these outlets because they are where young men 'exist'," says Chymera. "With this type of campaign, it is important for young men to be able to engage with it on their own doorstep, where they are, so we had to take it to them."

The charity also created a video featuring beatboxer Bass6 performing in front of an audience. The clip was posted on YouTube.

At the close of the campaign, the charity's digital banner adverts received almost double the industry standard for click-throughs, with 0.07 per cent; the YouTube video had more than 100,000 views. Traffic to the charity's website increased by 225 per cent over the same period last year.

She says that over the three weeks of the campaign, the proportion of men recruited to the register online increased to 32.9 per cent; the average for the year is 28 per cent.

EXPERT VIEW: Sean Kinmont, founding partner, creative, 23red

Sean Kinmont, founding partner, creative, 23redSo here's the dilemma: your audience hates this type of advertising, but you know it's the best way to reach them.

You go ahead with the adverts, but you apologise to your audience at the same time, saying you're doing it only because you have to, because it's important. You build empathy and hope they recognise you're being genuine - after all, the cause is worthy enough to take the risk.

It's a brave plan - and Anthony Nolan has pulled it off. Contending for this audience's time and interest is difficult. Unless they have been personally affected by this kind of issue, younger people often tend to feel somehow immortal.

The concept is particularly well suited to its target audience of young men, it's well written and its tone works. It's also pitched just right to justify interrupting this busy audience.

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

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