By Awards Analyst | writer

July 9, 2021 | 6 min read

Drummond Central won the ‘Public Sector’ category at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021 with its ’Thank You North East’ campaign for North East LA7 (Northumberland, Sunderland, Newcastle, Durham, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside councils). Here, the team behind the winning entry share the secrets of this successful project…

The challenge

We’ve passed the one-year anniversary of being restricted in some way in the UK. Just over a year ago, the WHO declared a global pandemic. Covid-19 had arrived and was about to wreak havoc.

We joined events in October when the seven-day average of new cases rose from 6,259 to 22,521, and the rolling average for daily deaths rose from 42 to 259 over the same period.

Around this time, the Covid problem felt particularly northern and in mid-September, swathes of the north were placed in enhanced restrictions by central government. The North East entered Tier 2 restrictions in the middle of October, followed by Tier 3 in early December.

Seven local authorities in the NE (LA7) wanted to launch a campaign that would positively change the region’s behaviour and help reduce the spread of Covid.

The strategy

For once we weren’t extolling the good sense of long and short­-term activity. We weren’t planning years down the road. We knew we had to start affecting change immediately by winning the region’s trust and inspiring them to change their behaviours. Wasted time meant potentially more risk to our citizens. If ever a short-term impact was needed, it was now.

We balanced the need for insight with getting the campaign into the wild to do its good work through lightning-fast quant and qual – we listened intently as locals told us their Covid stories.

All of this manifested in two behavioural concerns – social distancing and household mixing. People were lapsing either unconsciously or consciously. ’Staying alert’ all of the time takes its toll. How much longer could we withstand the constant cognitive load? People were simply forgetting.

Despite knowing ’what’ to do, parts of the region were either unable or unwilling to comply all of the time. In the determination to tell people ‘what’ to do, the ‘why’ had been lost along the way.

We needed to change the narrative. We had to:

  • Focus on empathy and appreciate people's sacrifices
  • Offer a prospect of reward or incentive – getting our futures back
  • Demonstrate tangible, small steps to recovery
  • Inspire a sense of togetherness by offering a shared goal
  • Adopt a positive tone of voice, avoiding hectoring or authoritarianism
North East LA7 covid-19 video still

The campaign

We created a campaign featuring 10 locals from the region. Instead of telling the audience what they can’t do, each of them says ’thank you’ to the people for everything they are doing to help stop the spread of Covid.

Each execution references a behaviour we want to nudge and tells a story of why that will make a difference to our protagonists. We wanted to make sure we were reinforcing this motivating ‘why’with the ‘what and how’ so we built the hub to host the latest restrictions, behavioural tips and stories from our campaign storytellers.

Our protagonists are instantly relatable. They all have their story, whether that be Emily, a schoolgirl shielding due to medical conditions; Brenda, a retired grandmother; or Jas, the bus driver keeping frontline workers moving. Each has their own personal reason for wanting the region to stick to the guidance.

We prioritised the two behaviours that had slipped – social distancing and household mixing. Our messaging construct always included a ’thank you’ and framed behavioural cues in the context of the benefits to the protagonists (and by proxy, to us all).

Research said the ’NE region’ wasn’t as resonant or motivating as people’s immediate locality, so we used targeted media that referenced people’s specific areas:

  • We achieved reach through TV and radio and used media placement to talk to key audiences and key domains or behavioural contexts
  • Geo-targeted digital reached parents around schools and people who had been in a care home
  • Targeting workers/commuters by using radio and the region's transport network – with messaging specific to travel
  • As Christmas approached, the campaign also featured heavily around the region’s shopping centres
  • We wanted to ensure that traditionally harder to reach audiences could see the campaign, so we deployed ad vans with locally specific messaging

Each of our protagonists published weekly Covid Diaries on our BeatCovidNE online hub and in local media. The region got to know the trials and tribulations of each diarist as they responded to the changing landscape and challenges such as contracting and recovering from Covid, going back into shielding, or dealing with home-schooling. Bringing personal and in-depth stories into the region’s homes further strengthened the communal bonds created by the campaign.

The results

Our pre/post evaluation research shows significant movement in the desired direction on key metrics that map to our original campaign objectives. There was a groundswell of support - 84% of the region supported the LA7 running the campaign.

The campaign has been recognised by nearly half the region (44%). 93% of people took a clear message around the importance of persevering for our region.

We changed people’s minds. The number of people who doubted the importance of sticking to the rules was significantly lower if people had seen the campaign. We persuaded people that they could and should keep going – intent to do more re: social distancing was 10 percentage points higher among people who had seen the campaign.

Self-reported compliance was higher among those who had seen the campaign. Crucially, half of people who saw the campaign took at least one desired action.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021. Find out which competitions in The Drum Awards are currently open and don’t forget to visit our new interactive calendar.

Marketing Awards Case Studies COVID-19

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