Javed Khan: A good advert must forge an emotional connection in a short space of time

Chief executive Javed Khan on why Barnardo's chose computer-generated animals to highlight its support services in its latest TV advertising campaign

Javed Khan
Javed Khan

Young people’s mental health is a key priority for Barnardo’s. At a time when one in eight children in England has a mental health disorder, and with growing understanding of adverse childhood experiences, we are investing our voluntary funds in developing specialist mental health services and ensuring all our staff and volunteers are trained to respond to trauma.

Another important priority for Barnardo’s is to make others aware of the pressures children face, something that can be achieved successfully with a strong advertising campaign.

In 2017, we launched our Believe in Me campaign (above), focusing on the strength and resilience of the children we support. In 2019 we decided to build on that first inspirational advert with a new campaign that helps people understand the challenges faced by young people in our services and the impact of the support we deliver.

The first of our three new adverts is designed to show that, with safe spaces and specialist support, all children have the power to move forward from challenging experiences.

When developing the advert, we had to consider how best to help audiences connect to the emotional experiences of the children we support. In a time of information fatigue and shorter-than-ever attention spans, we wanted to create something that was memorable, emotional and accurate, and all in 40 seconds.

That’s why, with support from the creative agency FCB Inferno, we explored the idea of using CGI animals as a metaphor for the feelings children experience as a result of traumatic experiences.

The goal was to represent children’s feelings as authentically as possible: our new advert uses CGI hyenas to depict the fear and anxiety felt by a 12-year-old girl in school, when walking home, in her home and on her phone at night.

The advert makes for challenging viewing, because anxiety is a challenging issue. But we believe that taking a creative and unique approach will better help viewers understand how it feels to be a young person with anxiety and what Barnardo’s is doing to help.

Unfortunately, this anxiety is a daily reality for too many children in 2019.

The advert ends positively, revealing how the girl finds support and hope by talking to a specialist Barnardo’s counsellor. Sadly, not every young person dealing with mental health issues is this fortunate.

At Barnardo’s we change children’s lives and the systems around them for the better – but we can’t do this alone. We hope that after seeing our new advert people will have a better understanding of the work we do, and will choose to support us. It’s only thanks to our supporters, donors, partners and volunteers that we – and charities like us – can continue to achieve better outcomes for more children.

Javed Khan is chief executive of Barnardo's

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