Austerity advertising drives home the message
MEDIA & MARKETING:WHEN OTHER people tell me something is deeply moving, I tend to press play or open the page hardened to the possibility of being so moved. So when I saw a link to a video making an urgent appeal for donations to the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation circulated with the caution that it was heartbreaking, I opened it out of professional curiosity more than anything else.
Does this video, an extended version of a television advertisement created pro bono by a team of advertising, post-production, communications and voiceover professionals, break hearts? I only know that my tear ducts appeared to be malfunctioning for some time afterwards.
In Bringing Home, Brigid Flanagan, from Termonfeckin, Co Louth, tells her story by holding up cards. When her son Richard was born, he didn’t cry and couldn’t swallow his own saliva. The consultant said he was likely to be a cot death. The only person to assure Brigid she could look after Richard at home, was Anne Reilly, a liaison nurse from Jack and Jill. Brigid’s “strong determined little boy”, who requires 24-hour care, is now three.
The camera cuts away to the kicker of an on-screen coda. “In 1920s Ireland there was no entitlement to support in the home for parents of children with severe brain damage,” it reads. “In 2012,” the next caption fades in. “There still isn’t.”
The call to action is for viewers to donate €5 to Jack and Jill by texting “WE CARE” to 57034. And they have. Between the running of the advertisement in full on RTÉ last Friday and this Tuesday, it had received 7,000 texts and a further €100,000 in cash donations.
Aside from sending an instinctive text, there are many appropriate responses to a campaign such as this – sadness, pity, empathy. And then there’s rage. Because Bringing Home has joined a lengthening, thickening, line of austerity advertisements.
Some ask for donations to fund what should be basic public services that have never been adequately provided; others are by charities that have become the victims of cutbacks. My route to work currently passes two such advertisements – a bus shelter ad calls for support for the homeless charity Threshold, while two billboards seek help for children with cystic fibrosis. There have been, and will be, many more.
The only reason Jack and Jill can even afford to make its funding appeal across television, radio, print and outdoor advertising is because it has a sponsor, Nestlé Ireland, which raised the money to pay for airtime and ad space. Agency DDFHB, media buyers Mindshare and PR firm Weber Shandwick, which all count Nestlé as a client, are among the many who gave time to the campaign for free. Otherwise, it would have cost six figures.
The experience of working on the campaign has been “a big learning curve for us in the agency”, says Fiona Byrne, account director at DDFHB. She and her creative team visited several of the families supported by Jack and Jill. Byrne talks about the extensive medical equipment each child needs, the hours that parents spend just on one feed, their constant lack of sleep, the impact on siblings and the selfless nurses who become part of the family.
The team decided the line about the lack of homecare entitlements since the 1920s would make a particularly powerful message. “The State hasn’t collaborated with parents’ needs, but this project has been nothing but collaboration,” observes Byrne. “In some ways Jack and Jill has made the State’s job easy because they have taken this on.”
The magic number for Jack and Jill is €400,000 – that’s what it needs to keep its services intact until the end of the year. Annually, the charity requires €2.7 million to operate home nursing services the State does not. If the children stayed in hospital, it would cost the State a multiple of what homecare does – yet less than a fifth of the foundations funding comes from the HSE.
This campaign is about raising awareness of what the charity does, says Byrne. Getting the State to take on greater responsibility would be the “ultimate” goal. It certainly doesn’t hurt to point out, as these ads subtly do, that Jack and Jill’s funding shortfall doesn’t exist in a political vacuum.
“Will my child stay in hospital or come home? You decide,” reads Brigid’s card in the print ad. The point is we shouldn’t be the ones to decide.