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The Good Agency Brand Strategy Health & Pharma

Can marketing convince you to give up a kidney?


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

April 30, 2024 | 5 min read

One less kidney and 12 weeks of recovery with no financial gain might sound like a big ask, but it’s a life-saving gesture. We go inside the Good Agency’s latest charity campaign to persuade people to donate their organs.

Kidney donor's lifting their t-shirts up to reveal their scars

Kidney donor's proudly show their scars in the Make Your Mark campaign / The Good Agency

“I work in advertising. I’ve persuaded people to buy things or to sign up for a membership, but never to donate a body part,” Katie Howe-Dalgleish, art director at Good Agency, tells The Drum.

In the UK, six people die every week waiting for a kidney and right now, there are 5,500 people on that waiting list, 100 of whom are kids. It’s the longest donor list in the UK.

The Good Agency is a purpose-driven creative agency that has a history of working with charities and brands to influence behavior change. With a desperate shortage of donations, two charities – Give a Kidney and Kidney Research UK, alongside the philanthropist David Dangoor CBE – came together to brief Good Agency to create a donation drive.

The ‘Make Your Mark’ campaign brief then was to get the public to consider donating their kidney to a stranger, a practice known as non-directed donation, or to a relative or a friend through directed donation.

Most people who receive a kidney get it from someone who has died or from someone they know, but Pete Esuola-Grant, head of strategy at Good Agency, says: “That just isn’t enough.” The campaign, then, had to cast the net wider. Giving a kidney to a stranger was only legalized in 2006 and, so far, only 1,000 people in the UK have ever donated.

When coming up with the strategy, the Good Agency had to tackle the first barrier to living donation. “One of the fundamental barriers is just knowing that it’s a thing and that it’s possible to donate to a stranger."

The agency needed to get under the skin of previous donors to understand why they chose to donate. “The deeper insight that came out from speaking to people who’ve done it was this sense of unbelievable generosity; we nicknamed them generosity junkies,” says Esuloa-Grant.

One person was a neurosurgeon who spent his whole career saving people’s lives and then retired and thought, ‘What else can I do?’ Another was a serial blood donor who wondered about what else she can donate from her body. “This idea of ultra generosity was the guiding insight.”

Is it inside you to save a life?

Howe-Dalgleish was behind the creative execution, which weaves together the stories of kidney donors. The stories selected tell the more rational side of donating a kidney. She explains: “We’re all aware of the conversation that if someone in your family needed a kidney, you would consider donating your kidney. But for one of our donors, she thought, ‘If you could give your kidney to a family member, why not give it to someone else?’”

The 60-second hero film launches on May 8 and is supported by a series of powerful stills showing donors lifting their shirts. “We wanted a motif that was easily replicated,” says Howe-Dalgleish. To achieve this The Good Agency painted the words, ‘Is it inside you to save a life?’ on their stomachs.

Good Agency typically develops campaigns rooted in lived experience, which Howe-Dalgleish says can often be “heart-wrenching and difficult subject matters,” but that this campaign “has been full of joy and full of life.”

The tone of the campaign was set after the agency brought the kidney donors together for the first photo shoot and saw how joyful they and their stories were, she says. “The shoot was just so positive; it was so infectious.”

A needle in a haystack

The campaign is launching on social and PR first before exploring other media options. For the PR part, Good Agency has partnered with celebrities who are connected to kidney donation.

“We are trying to find this needle in the haystack,” says Esuola-Grant, and that is why the campaign needs to have mass reach. The targeting is fairly broad but aimed at the 35–to-60-year-old demographic as well as people in good health. “You also have to be quite economically stable as you would need three months off work, so it tends to be older, fitter and more affluent people.”

The campaign has two KPIs, the first of which is driving awareness that people can donate to a stranger. The agency is using a YouGov tracker to benchmark how many people were aware pre-campaign that you can donate and then comparing this with post-campaign. The other KPI is around how many leads are generated.

“We are also hoping for cultural change where this becomes normalized, and this is just the start,” adds Esuloa-Grant. “In the last 10 years, there has been a really big cultural change in donating your organs after you died, so this is almost like the next stage of normalizing living donation.”

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