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'The end game is that effectively, digital ceases to exist,' says Save the Children digital chief after Syria YouTube viral hit

Save the Children is aiming to steer away from categorising content as 'digital' despite having had recent social and digital campaign success including its Syria YouTube viral hit, according to charity’s acting digital director, Mark Weber.

Speaking to The Drum Weber said the charity didn’t expect the ‘If London was Syria’ YouTube campaign, which garnered around 30 million views, to go viral.

He said that although the children’s charity “knew the possibility was there”, the resounding success of the ad, which followed a typical British girl in a civil war hit London, was an unexpected result.

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“We didn’t expect it … we had no idea and I don’t think anybody can honestly say with these big hits that they really knew that they were going to be a big hit.

“We’ve got a fairly sizeable following on Facebook, we know that there is the potential of reaching people and we know that there have been examples in the past where charity and not-for-profit videos have reached large audiences, so we always knew that the possibility was there.”

Save the Children has increasingly begun to use social and digital channels to push marketing campaigns like the Syria ad, but is trying to steer away from the mind-set of categorising content as ‘digital’, which Weber explained.

“The end game is that effectively, digital ceases to exist. People shouldn’t really be consciously thinking ‘one thing is digital, and one thing is not digital’.

“Every single thing that we’re doing is going to be a mixture of using communication channels: some of them we have decided to call digital. Fundamentally, whether it’s print, or online, or whatever, all of these are part of the ways in which we interact with our supporters… its more about understanding those personalities rather than a catch all, ‘this is digital’.”

Attune to that stance, the charity has recently a launched a crowd sourcing campaign, #Vlog4Good, to find a new host for its YouTube channel, and is hoping to repeat the drive on a yearly basis. The face of the channel will create curated content, develop a strategy to increase subscribers and will receive media training in return.

The idea for the campaign was sparked by a workshop that Save the Children ran with “a whole bunch of YouTubers,” after realising that the content it was producing was “traditionally broadcast orientated” and not tailored to the channel.

“It’s important that the person presenting has a personal relationship with the audience – this idea came out of the workshop – and it was felt it is something more attuned to the way the YouTube channel works.”

Speaking about the challenges of being a charity and trying to creating exciting content, Weber revealed that Save the Children finds it hard to be too experimental, but at the same time needs to invest in innovation to keep up with its supporters and continue to raise funds.

“We have to be very careful, we work on small budgets and everything we spend has to be there to help children. The purpose of working more on YouTube is to increase our supporter base and increase our fundraising so we can give more help to children... But at the same time the world is changing and digital is a massive force for that change, and if we don’t work out how these channels work, then we will lose our contact with our supporters as they shift away from traditional means.”

Weber said that while keen to use new technologies, such the augmented reality email used in its East Africa appeal, he is wary of being “too ahead of the curve”, preferring instead to used established technologies that have already proved successful, adding “there’s still huge amount of potential for innovating in established spaces”.

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