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Cancer Research cements refreshed brand strategy with campaign inspired by 24 Hours in A&E

Cancer Research has made a shift from thinking about brand and response as two separate entities and is now bringing its marketing strategy under a 'brand response' umbrella.

Its first campaign under the revised strategy has been inspired by Channel 4 programme '24 Hours in A&E' and has abandoned the "unbelievable" future-looking straplines of the past and instead embraced a more immediate tone of voice to show the realities of living with cancer and what researchers, today, are achieving.

Explaining the charity's strategy moving forward, Cancer Research UK’s director of brand, marketing and communications Anthony Newman told The Drum that the majority of its activity is already direct response marketing but that larger investments in high impact brand campaigns have failed to translate.

"We had a deliberate change in strategy to stop thinking about brand and response separately and start thinking about 'brand response'. In this we mean we expect to generate response directly from our advertising and to use the same themes and communications in our direct marketing work," Newman said. "I want to get to a place where our product advertising does a brand job in the same way our brand advertising does a response job."

This has seen it target a much wider demographic - anyone over the age of 18 - than previous marketing efforts which would have aimed squarely at the 35 - 55 ABC1s demographic.

But in order to reach more people it meant the charity needed a broader and more piercing insight. It's work with former agency of record AMV BBDO saw it run with the proposition 'we can see a day when cancer will be beaten'.

"The trouble with it is that it suggests we work and work and nothing really happens until suddenly we find the cure, the pill or the vaccine, and then the job is done. And that's not how we work, and worse, it seems like an impossible goal; it's too big and too unbelievable," said Newman.

More recently, it's campaign message has asked people to 'help us beat Cancer sooner'. "The problem with that is that it makes it sound like it's still a really long way off," he said.

Moving forward the charity wants to show how people can help today with the message "we know we're beating cancer everyday, because everyday we gain new knowledge, and this knowledge lasts forever".

This, it hopes, will better convey the immediacy of the work it's researchers are doing as well as highlight how people can help today.

The first campaign under this concept is called ‘Right Now’ and has run with creative inspired by Channel 4's fly-on-the-wall documentary '24 Hours in A&E' to show moments in the lives of real-life patients, researchers and medical staff. It was produced by the same company behind the programme, The Garden, and marked the first time it had ever work on an advert.

Oli Beale, partner and executive creative director at Anomaly - the creative agency behind the work - explained: “A single script with actors in it seemed wrong to us from the start. We wondered if it was possible to make a series of adverts that felt more like the incredible story-telling in ’24 Hours in A&E’. It turns out that it is - by getting the creators of 24 Hours in A&E to make them and getting out of the way as much as possible.

"It’s been a revolutionary way of working for us. It was a group-hug of trust between Anomaly, The Garden, Cancer Research UK, the patients, the scientists, the medical staff and the hospitals. The result is a vast number of adverts that feel nothing like adverts. I hope they go some way to conveying to the public that cancer is happening right now and there is something we can all do right now to help.”

The campaign will air on TV on 24 December before running into the New Year across TV, outdoor, digital, radio, PR, cinema, social media and direct.

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