St John Ambulance

The first-aid charity has launched a hard-hitting campaign to encourage more people to learn basic first-aid skills

A still from St John Ambulance's new video
A still from St John Ambulance's new video

What is it?

As many people die from lack of first aid as from cancer, according to St John Ambulance. In order to highlight this comparison, the charity has unveiled a new film that encourages people to learn basic first-aid skills. 

What happens in the film?

It follows the journey of a man who is diagnosed with cancer, undergoes treatment and survives, only to choke to death at a family gathering because no one knows the basic first aid that might have saved his life. It was first aired on Sunday during ITV1’s Downton Abbey and can be viewed on the charity’s website.

The charity is urging the public to get a free pocket-sized guide featuring first-aid skills that can help in five common life-threatening situations by texting HELP to 80039.

Why is the charity doing it?

Up to 140,000 people die each year in situations where first aid might have saved their lives. This is as many as die from cancer. New research by the charity shows that more than four times as many of us think more people die from cancer than a lack of first aid.

How is the campaign being promoted?

The campaign was launched with teasers on social media on Saturday. As the advert was aired, the charity took to its social media channels to encourage engagement using #Helpless on Twitter.

In the first minute of the advert, the charity received 1,500 texts for free first-aid guides; three days later it had received 7,000 texts. In the first hour after the advert was broadcast, it had 2500 web visits. 

Third Sector verdict:

When you start watching the video, you expect it to be about surviving cancer, but it cleverly turns that expectation on its head when the actor starts choking. There has been a debate about of the use of shock tactics in advertising, but this film gets its message across in a powerful and extremely effective way. Having Cancer Research UK on board to support the campaign is also a great move – its involvement gives credence to the campaign message.

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