Guide Dogs shifts focus from puppies to people in 'By My Side' campaign

Guide Dogs is repositioning its focus from puppy to people-centred marketing to draw attention to the services it provides beyond its guide dogs.

By nature of its name, most people grasp that Guide Dogs is a charity that raises funds for canine services. "Not enough people know about the breadth of other services it offers," explained Emma Foulds, director of marketing, digital and influencing at the charity.

Thus, Guide Dogs is launching its first multi-channel brand "to reach out to potential service users, their friends and families" who may not know about the support the charity could offer them, Foulds made clear.

Alongside its 4,950 guide dogs, the charity hosts a whole range of services to support people with visual impairments, no matter what age, from CustomEyes books, to educational support as well as a UK-wide programme of family support events.

The campaign brings to life Guide Dogs ‘By My Side’ five-year strategy, whereby it aims to reach thousands more people with sight loss, volunteers and new donors. It has set itself a target to increase its reach from 200,000 to 500,000 by 2023.

Guide Dogs enlisted Dame Julie Walters to narrate its TV ad, which does not rely on typical audio description. As part of its reposition to be more people-centric, rather than focusing on sight loss, the ad hones in on the relationship between a daughter and a father, who is visually impaired.

Created by Karmarama, the ad features Alex Pepper - a former Met Police emergency call handler who lost his eyesight in 2016 due to retinoblastoma as a child.

In the film - the father is supporting his daughter at her local football match. Aware that he won't be able to see the action, but desperate for him to be involved - the little girl narrates the game like a football commentator for her father to hear. This is an everyday scenario for those affected by visual impairment, and one that many can relate to.

The ad will air on TV, as well as online and social media. Karmarama has also created a radio ad to run alongside, while MC&C devised a media strategy which includes a celebrity-fronted podcast series and research report.

Digital agency Zone also came aboard to create a year-long series of digital and social content, that tells real stories from the sight loss community to further the campaign's messaging.

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