Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Orbis's online ad plan comes together

Francois Le Goff,


Orbis Flying Eye Hospital's first online advertising campaign ran on The Guardian's website and Friends Reunited in December. It raised £8,500, driving monthly online donations up by 69 per cent. About 400 people clicked on the advert to access the charity's website.


Orbis kicked off its online advertising campaign in December, just after re-launching its website. The charity wanted to develop its online fundraising because 24 per cent of its donors are recruited through its website. The campaign targeted 20 to 45-year-olds in the UK.

How it worked

The campaign consisted of a series of web banner adverts starring Mr T in his role as BA Baracus from TV series The A-Team - a character famous for his fear of flying. The advert aimed to inform people about the charity's flying hospital and sight-saving work worldwide. Orbis hired online advertising company Lean Mean Fighting Machine to produce the campaign.

"Cult figures don't get much bigger than BA Baracus, and the fact that he hates flying gave us just the right twist to promote Orbis," said Sam Ball, creative planner at Lean Mean Fighting Machine.

Three different versions were produced. In one advert, Mr T, who allowed his image to be used for free, said: "I pity the fool who refuses to help blind people see again. I ain't getting on no plane, but I will donate some cash to the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital." Another said: "Don't make me mad - unnecessary blindness makes me mad." The advert was sent to 1,500 people who subscribe to the charity's newsletter. It was also put on The Guardian's website the week before Christmas and on Friends Reunited between Christmas and the New Year.


The campaign raised £8,500. "This was amazing because most people's Christmas donations were given to tsunami appeals," said Samantha Dunham, e-communications manager at Orbis. "Although the donations were small, there were a lot of them, which reflected the age group we were trying to attract."

Some 381 people accessed Orbis's website through the advert on Friends Reunited and 23 came through The Guardian's website. The campaign drove monthly online donations up by 69 per cent in December. "The banners have paid for themselves three times over," said Dunham. She added that the number of first-time visitors doubled that month.

Orbis re-ran the adverts on the Financial Times website and virgin in April. The advert generated a 50 per cent rise in online donations from an average of £1,200 a month. "We anticipate that we will also be able to use the adverts again when the new The A-Team film is released," said Dunham.

EXPERT VIEW - Steve Thompson, creative director, DNA

One of my favourite TV shows from the mid-1980s was The A-Team - bad acting, predictable plots and dialogue that would leave your English teacher in tears. It was everything a growing boy needed.

For me, the character that stood out most was that gold-drenched muscleman BA Baracus - you know, the one who was scared of flying. So when I saw him in a banner ad, it was sure to attract my attention.

This was no accident. The creative team behind it used an iconic character who would be guaranteed to tap into fond memories of the 30-something target audience. Not only that, but they've animated his mouth so he can once again utter "Don't make me mad".

However, good communication shouldn't stop there. Once my attention has been well and truly grabbed, a strong message must be delivered. In this particular advert, having the constant visual of the aeroplane, together with the Orbis logo, worked well. You got the connection with flying and you began to fill in the gaps. What didn't work so well was the text - it was small and condensed, which made it uncomfortable to read. I also would have expected a stronger call to action in order to give the advert a more natural conclusion.

In saying that, I do like this advert, mainly for the fact that they have done something funny with an airborne eye hospital.

Creativity: 4

Delivery: 3


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