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How BHF raised profile of sudden cardiac arrest

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By The Drum | Editorial

November 30, 2023 | 4 min read

The British Heart Foundation set out to raise awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and implemented an innovative strategy to put sudden heart attack at the top of the agenda. The work also won awards for Audio and Innovative Campaign (Under $250). Here is the award-winning case study.

Raising the profile of heart disease

Every week in the UK, 12 people under the age of 35 die of a sudden cardiac arrest, often caused by inherited heart muscle diseases (genetic cardiomyopathies). Few people are aware of the issue and even fewer people are aware of British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) role in funding lifesaving research in this area. As part of the announcement of the BHF’s largest ever research grant - £30m to CureHeart, a global collective of scientists who are pioneering revolutionary gene therapy technologies that could silence or edit the faulty genes that cause inherited heart muscle diseases - we wanted to address this low awareness.

Strategy Our strategy was grounded in the unexpected nature of heart disease - sudden death due to cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time – which meant our media idea needed to do what heart disease, unfortunately, does every day. Stop people in their tracks. In radio, silence is a rarity. The flow of the output is always constant. Our media idea focussed on pulling listeners out of their expected listening experience whilst playing on a contextually relevant connection with the UK biggest radio network – Heart. Our media idea? Stop the UK’s biggest Heart.

How? Collaborate with well-known brands to allow their ads to sporadically suffer heart attacks live on-air across the Heart radio network to provide disruptive moments to announce the BHF’s research grant. On the day the BHF’s record-breaking research grant was announced, the British Heart Foundation ‘stopped’ the adverts of a host of well- known brands unexpectedly throughout the day with the sound of a beeping heart monitor that eventually flatlined – the shocking but familiar long tone a monitor makes when alerting medical staff to someone’s heart stopping. The current radio ads from household brands including Sainsbury’s, Admiral Insurance, Heycar, Cazoo, On the Beach, Dunelm, and Checkatrade all flatlined across the day, followed by a British Heart Foundation message detailing the impact of genetic cardiomyopathy and how the charity is funding research that aims to find “a game-changing cure to stop the diseases from stopping hearts”.

The ‘flatlining’ ads were planned to be randomly broadcast alongside real ads to play on the disruptive and unexpected nature of the condition, catching audiences off guard and grabbing their attention as radios and smart speakers across the country went into flatline across the day. These ‘Heart-stopping’ moments were heard by 3.5m listeners across the day. But why leave it there? we wanted to take the idea further…

To increase reach, the idea was extended into Global podcasts across the week of the announcement, with 20 Global Podcasts unexpectedly ‘Flatlining’ mid-show. Podcast presenters including James O’Brien, Johnny Vaughan, Elizabeth Day and Ed Gamble all delivered news of British Heart Foundation’s research grant to their audiences against the unexpected and striking sonic backdrop of mid-podcast cardiac arrest.

Results Across the following two weeks, the BHF’s homepage traffic increased by 8.2%. Pre vs post campaign research showed significant increases in understanding of the work the British Heart Foundation does: • ‘British Heart Foundation invests heavily in lifesaving heart research‘ +8.5% • ‘I understand the work British Heart Foundation does’ +22% • ‘British Heart Foundation has made major breakthroughs in understanding and treating circulatory diseases’ +10.6% We also saw a 22% increase in consideration to donate to the BHF amongst those who heard the ads.

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