Help the Aged wanted the maximum amount of publicity for the launch of
its annual ’Heating or Eating’ campaign, which traditionally comprises a
door drop to ten million homes.
The campaign has been running for ten years but the charity wanted to
take greater ownership of the issue in an attempt to pull in at least
pounds 6m in donations.
Last winter, between December and March, 21,462 elderly people died
either as a direct or indirect result of the cold weather - despite the
winter being relatively mild. The year before the weather was harsher
and the increase on the national average was 38,000.
Help the Aged and Target Direct put their heads together and came up
with the idea of the ’mortuary slab’ picture. To gain further visual
impact, the charity decided to use posters for the first time.
Predictably, the more in-your-face medium caused controversy because of
the rather shocking nature of the image. This was further fuelled when
two national newspapers refused to carry the ads on the grounds of
However, the agency and charity were unrepentant. ’We needed to focus
people’s minds on the issue; this is about people dying,’ says Carol
Hobbs, senior account executive planner and buyer with Target
Media Business Direct was also looking to attract as much media
attention as possible without spending too much because the bulk of the
budget was put aside for direct marketing.
By projecting the image from a boat on the Thames onto the Houses of
Parliament, Media Business Direct believed it could arouse interest and
also make an effective political statement.
Using a boat allowed flexibility. It could move along the river,
projecting the image onto other landmarks such as the former County Hall
and the Oxo building.
Results were mixed. The image was not that clear on the Houses of
Parliament because lights on in the building distorted the image (see
picture). Yet the media loved the idea and immediately picked up on the
stunt. It received coverage on BBC, ITN and Channel Four news programmes
as well as The Big Breakfast. It was also picked up by the Australian
media, and received coverage in Japan too.
Following the stunt, calls began coming in offering support and
voluntary services. Though donations are currently only trickling in,
Maddy Clay, the charity’s direct marketing manager says the response is
Profile, page 22
Client: Help the Aged
Campaign: Heating or Eating
Agencies: Media Business Direct and Target Direct
Timescale: November 2-16
Budget: Part of a total pounds 900,000 budget