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How the British Heart Foundation made a CPR ad in 18 hours after Christian Eriksen’s collapse

It had no plans to be a Euros advertiser, but after the shocking collapse of Denmark footballer Christian Eriksen last week, The British Heart Foundation booked a slot, landed Vinnie Jones, and made an ad that ran ahead of his team’s next game just six days later. Here’s how the client, media planner and creative team pulled it off.

Saturday 12 June

5pm: Fergus Barnett, managing partner at PHD - British Heart Foundation (BHF)'s media agency - is watching Denmark’s opening game against Finland when Christian Eriksen collapses. He is given CPR on the pitch for over 10 minutes before being carried off on a stretcher.

“When you were watching in real-time, and the cameras didn’t cut away when they should have, time stood still. I was cut up by it,” Barnett says. “In the hours after that, when we knew he was recovering, I started to allow myself to think about how the British Heart Foundation could play a role here. If any brand had a space to play in a non-opportunistic way then it was BHF.”

Barnett mulls the idea of a reactive print campaign the next day.

Monday 14 June

9.30am: Barnett has a call with Stephen Poole , group sales and partnerships controller at ITV. Saatchi & Saatchi was only appointed to the creative account days earlier and Barnett has no idea if contracts have even been signed yet. He talks with Poole about potentially using ITV Studios as a stand in creative agency on whatever it decides to do.

Later that day: ITV comes back to say it has a 40-second opening slot in the first ad break in the Denmark-Belgium game that Thursday, three days away.

But how would it be paid for? BHF hasn't ran an ATL campaign since last October. “We had no live campaigns, no media booked, there was no Caria booking, no way a spot could just be added,” says Barnett. "It would need a separate booking. And would we trade that in a reconciled way where the rating can go up and down, the costs can go up or down? How do we get a PO for that? The practicalities for just buying one spot are not easy."

ITV and PHD enter negotiations. Barnett pitches to Damion Mower, who joined BHF just two weeks earlier, for the first time.

Meanwhile, over at Saatchi’s, unaware PHD is looking into media, the creative team have been talking about whether they could, or even should, do something in response.

“We were of course aware of the news and the reaction we had was to do something," says Guillermo Vega, chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi. "We started debating whether it was the right thing to do, or even in good taste."

Tuesday 15 June

9am: Rumors spread at Saatchi’s that PHD may have landed ad space. Bower makes Claire Sadler, director of marketing, aware that an idea is brewing.

Elsewhere, the media agency and ITV have come to an agreement.

“We got them to agree to let us buy a non-reconcilable spot,” says Barnett. “Our AV guys checked ratings expected based on previous games at previous tournaments and netted out ITV's estimations. They were in line with ours so we could buy [the ad slot] at a fixed price. That allowed us to move quickly.”

5pm: Saatchi’s is called into a meeting and briefed formally for the first time.

“We then had a meeting with the creative and production teams to talk about the potential areas," says Vega. "We talked about getting someone close to Christian to give the message, but we had no idea how to do that when he was in hospital. We thought about whether we could talk to the Denmark coach, but we had no idea how to do that.

"We kept coming back to the idea that this was an ad we didn’t want to make.”

8.30pm: Saatchi’s sends a draft script to Sadler. The ad will be a series of images coinciding with key moments in the script. Lauren Dyer, creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi, leads the teams as they're split into groups and challenged to find images for each segment. The business affairs department at Saatchi’s gets to work on securing the rights holders to sign off.

The call is put in to get footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones, the star of BHF's earlier award-winning Hard and Fast campaign, on board.

9.30pm: PHD is told to reserve the ad slot with ITV. The broadcaster generously offers a get-out-free clause should the ad fall through.

1am: Vega and Sadler see the first edit in which the text is overlaid on the chosen images. “There was was too much going on so we decided to split text and images into different frames. That gave it room to breathe,” Sadler says.

Back to the cutting room.

2.30am: Vinnie Jones is willing to lend his support but is in Australia, about to get on a long-haul flight. He is given the finalized script minutes before he boards.

“When he sent the recording back you could hear crickets in the background that we had to edit out," laughs Vega.

The color and sound teams are editing simultaneously as the final ad is cut.

Wednesday 16 June

8.30am: Vega sees a second edit. ITV has set a deadline fo 12noon for the ad to be approved by clearance body Clearcast before the final booking can be made.

9.30am: The second edit is shown to Sadler, who frantically calls the British Heart Foundation’s medical director. He needs to send a signed email to Clearcast approving statistics it has used. He’s in a research meeting. “I was begging him to get out to sign it off," she says.

Barnett adds: “At one point I said, 'we’re going to have to make the booking with ITV and hope the ad gets approved, or we’ll have to leave it'."

12noon: The final edit is agreed. “The guys pulled it off,” says Barnett. “It went through Clearcast and ITV held the booking.”

Thursday 17 June

5pm: The ad goes live.

The website has since seen a 2000% increase in visits as people seek more information on how to do CPR and the campaign has achieved national PR coverage.

"It's been a massive team effort. It's the first piece of work [from Saatchi] for the British Heart Foundation and what an introduction," says Sadler.

Friday 18 June

Christian Eriksen is discharged from hospital. The rapid CPR care he received from teammates and medics at the Parken Stadium is widely acknowledged as having saved his life.

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