While many people happily skip adverts, I love them! You might be surprised to learn that Wes Anderson, Baz Lurhman, Michael Bay and Ridley Scott have all directed ads for famous campaigns. However, it comes as no surprise that creating and running an advert on TV is expensive.

Some may question why charities use their funds to make a TV advert when it is cheaper to advertise online. The main reason is that every study into marketing effectiveness agrees that TV outperforms all other media channels to deliver long-term growth. Research shows that the average TV ad generated a return on investment (ROI) of £4.20, whereas the ROI of an online video was almost half of that at £2.35.

The economic impact of the recession has seen many charities looking to reduce costs where they can, but marketing should always be seen as an investment, not a cost. WARC explains that evidence from previous recessions shows that brands that maintained their media investment generated higher growth than those who reduced their budgets. 

Because of the lockdown, people are watching more TV, on average, three hours each day. With many networks like ITV and Channel 4, reducing their advertising costs, it has never been more affordable and arguably a better time to advertise on TV.

I wanted to speak to Charlotte Harris, Marketing Director and Ryan Wilkins, Founder & CEO of Raw, to learn how they go about developing campaigns that drive social change for good. 

What advice would you give to charities that are thinking about creating a brand campaign in the current climate?

Our advice is to do it! Especially if your charity is particularly relevant in the current climate. There is a real opportunity to leverage your strengths, be seen to be helpful, and, as a result, increase your brands perception of stability and trust.

Now is the perfect opportunity to be agile and nimble, you don’t have to think long term here, there is a risk that if you wait until everything returns to normal and there will be the usual levels of competition and noise to compete with.

From an agency point of view, the advice is fairly evident in that relevancey is key. Brands need to take into account the environment and zeitgeist and make sure it’s relatable to the individual in the here and now.

You also need to consider how people are behaving. The pandemic has drastically changed audiences’ current mindsets and behaviours; you’ll need to reflect that in your campaign. Some of these changes include a surge in empathy and a desire to help others, so there’s a huge opportunity for charities to take the lead and shape the conversation.

Many brands have already pivoted to an emphasis on the local community, and I suspect this will become a focus for more and more campaigns this year. Finding a way to localise your message, cause and ask will be key – and luckily is something many charities are well positioned to do.

It’s also been said trust in the sector will grow as a result of the pandemic, so, after a difficult few years in this area, there’s potential to increase support and change the way people perceive and engage with your charity.

Why do you think that TV advertising is so effective?

This is an interesting question because the films we make are not always destined for TV, but many of our clients are thinking about utilising the channel for the first time.

During one of our Raw relay events, we explored how charities could grow their giving. Rob Stephens, CEO at JAA Media, gave a brilliant presentation where he argued that TV is still effective and will continue to play a big part of fundraising for the foreseeable future, but only if you do it in the right way.

We wholeheartedly agree with Rob’s sentiments. We believe that TV is effective because the largest audience segment for TV is baby boomers, who are arguably the most wealthy and generous generation. They’re also a captive audience on this medium, and people generally tend to watch in a linear fashion (even with catch-up) and consume advertising in its entirety. TV adverts still work brilliantly for donor recruitment and nothing else matches its efficiency at scale. However, it is important, like with any ad, to get the fundamentals right. These creative drivers can help to see if you’re hitting the right marks: 

  • Awareness – are you helping viewers to realise the need and scale of the problem?
  • Empathy – are you provoking an emotional response where people want to help?
  • Urgency – are you creating a sense of urgency to inspire people to help now, not later when they’ve become distracted with something else?

Once you feel that you’ve got the right levelS of awareness, empathy, and urgency in your ad, you need to consider the finishing touches which include:

  • Accessible engagement: can viewers respond in a way that they want to and is it easy for them to do so?
  • Payment choice: can they pay the way they want to?
  • User Experience: is the user journey is consistent with the advert they just saw? We’re always surprised by how many campaigns get this part wrong.

For the best results, TV and digital advertising should be closely linked in an integrated campaign, with the onward journey picking up from where the TV ad finished and guiding the viewer to relevant content and campaign requests.

By the time you’ve followed all of our adive you’ll most likely be exhausted, but it is really important to remember to continuously “test, learn, and refine” – even strong adverts benefit from being optimised.

What has been your favourite campaign to work on?

We’re lucky enough to do what we love, for causes we care about, so it’s hard to choose a favourite! War Child’s #EscapeRobot is probably one we’re well known for. The charity/agency partnership and collaboration resulted in a unique and ambitious campaign creative, and the execution exceeded all expectations. Engaging the public, influencers and policymakers resulted in securing funding for a new programme in DRC:

Another was the Red Cross’ EveryRefugeeMatters campaign. As part of Refugee Week, we launched a multichannel video campaign to bring on board like-minded supporters who want to help create a positive environment for refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK. Based on the concept of missing pieces, the film explores the link between the fragmented lives of refugees and the parts that the charity helps them to rebuild. It went on to exceed all targets across 14 specific KPIs, including 28 pieces of national and regional coverage, engaging more than 40 MPs and earning almost twice the targeted number of new followers:

More recently, we helped reposition Save the Children’s new DRTV and online fundraising proposition, to coincide with the launch of their new brand.

What would you say to charities that are worried about spending money on marketing during this time?

It’s no secret that when things get tough, marketing is often the first budget to be squeezed. But this is a double-edged sword because halting your comms and marketing will only have a longer-lasting negative impact on your brand.

Instead, now should be the time to keep talking to your beneficiaries, supporters, and prospects. Charities should be stepping up, acting as reliable sources of guidance, information and reassurance in these uncertain times, not stepping down. We know that many charities are struggling at the moment, but there are some great advertising initiatives available to help you. I think that the physiological barrier that senior stakeholders face when trying to justify budgets to other departments is the hardest barrier to overcome. But herein lies the opportunity: It’s common sense – if you advertise when everyone else stops…

  • There is less noise – which means that your message is more likely to be noticed due to fewer ads in the market
  • Advertising costs drop – it’s a buyers market for brand campaigns
  • Your business is more likely to be remembered when everyone starts advertising again
  • There is an opportunity to project an image of trust, helpfulness, and stability

How have Raw been keeping busy during the lockdown? Are you creating content remotely?

Absolutely! There’s a huge number of inventive ways you can create new content from existing materials, scripted voice over, and sound design. Then, of course, there is the almost limitless potential of animation to tell stories and communicate both complex and emotive messages.

Last year we ran gave a presentation for the Charity Comms where we looked at trends and opportunities for charity video where we explored the various creative opportunities that are available to charities:


What do you think of the current range of adverts telling us how we’re all in this together?

The response is impressive, and generally, it’s great to see brands and charities responding so quickly to the current climate. Personally, We’re a fan of the trend highlighting frontline staff in favour of the big picture brand messages like NatWest shot-from-home edit of staff and Co-op’s quick turnaround partnership with FareShare.

Crucially, these ads are meaningful and purpose-lead because they go beyond superficial sentiment, there’s real commitment or action behind the words. This is what makes them stand out from the hundreds of carbon copy ads of stock footage and empty ‘we’re in this together’ slogans. If you haven’t seen it already, we love this hilarious compilation.

We’re seeing this theme carry over into charity sector ads and online content. British Red Cross is dominating with a huge variety of dynamic and innovative content, even using new platforms like TikTok, to reach new audiences. We’re also working with them to run a new DRTV appeal launching soon – watch this space!

It’s been interesting to see charities respond with emergency appeals too. Many are quite similar in tone, message, and ask that there’s a risk of them seeming like a default reaction to the pandemic rather than an actual urgent emergency need.

If you’d like to hear more about our thoughts on how charities are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 we have created a report which can be downloaded from our website here: Charity Impact Report

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