WORKSHOP: Case Study - Medical charity targets young minds

Francois Le Goff


Background: The Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, a medical charity based in London, provides specialist assessment and clinical rehabilitation services to adults with brain injuries or neurological diseases. Most of its supporters are women aged 50-plus, which does not reflect the range of people it treats. Many of its patients are young men who have had serious accidents.

As a charity, the hospital is not subject to the NHS target regime and can, therefore, focus on its patients. However, it relies heavily on individual donations and is constantly searching for new donors.

In September 2003, the charity hired Feel to launch its first advertising campaign. Aimed at young men, the campaign begin ahead of the hospital's 150th anniversary, which will be celebrated this year. The campaign was designed to recruit donors among people who take part in high-risk sports.

Using eye-catching pictures, it focused on reminding them of the risks involved in sports such as diving and motor sports, and stressed that the hospital can help them to recover if they are ever involved in an accident.

How it worked: In December and January, inserts were placed in specialist sports magazines including SkyDive, Circuit Driver, Summit and Boxing Monthly. The inserts featured a sticking plaster with the strapline, 'Not every accident can be repaired this easily'.

Inside it outlined the story of David, a former stuntman who was given a 10 per cent chance of survival after a skydiving accident. Cared for at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, David made a dramatic recovery.

The campaign did not aim to discourage high-risk sports enthusiasts from pursuing their hobbies, but acknowledged that they take calculated risks, adding that the hospital exists to "pick up the pieces of their lives" if things go wrong.

Simultaneously, full-page colour adverts were put into Classic & Sports Car and Heritage Today. One series of ads featured a deserted building and the second, an old car, to appeal to each respective title's readers.

Both bore the same strapline: 'If you see the potential, you obviously think like us', which invited readers to link their interests in restoring old and broken things with the hospital's rehabilitation work.

Results: The inserts reached more than 200,000 people, most of whom fitted the target profile. The adverts reached a further 300,000.

The best response to the campaign came from SkyDive magazine's readers.

The total number of people who telephoned the charity after seeing the advert was more than three times higher than estimated.

Gaz Daly, director of fundraising at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, said the success of the campaign among the magazine's readers proved that younger audiences are interested in the effects of brain injury.

The charity said that the average donation they received from the campaign is 20 per cent higher than those received from appeals to existing donors.

Many were accompanied by letters of support and admiration for the hospital's medical work.

For Chris Arnold, creative director at Feel, the campaign's good results stem from the fact that the charity knew it would need to innovate and take risks to reach a new audience.

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