Shock tactic advertising by Help the Aged may have offended some,
but it was necessary for getting the message across, says Jon Cope,
press and PR officer for the Health Education Authority’s HIV, Aids and
Sexual Health campaigns.
The thought of 20,000 older people freezing to death in winter because
they can’t afford to keep warm is chilling enough. A picture of the dead
really rams the message home. Help the Aged knows this, and by using
shock tactics for its ’Heating or Eating’ campaign it has publicised the
fact more successfully this year than for as long as I can remember.
Realistic visual representations of death are disturbing and the
mortuary slabs are a graphic reminder of this commonplace tragedy. Not
pleasant, but neither is the problem, and those concerned at these
images should be thankful that the charity got cold feet when it did; a
frost-bitten corpse pictured in an icy room might have brought donations
rolling in even more quickly.
I’m sure the campaign’s critics have a point and that some folk won’t
welcome such a harsh reminder of the end that comes to us all. But in
publicity terms it’s mighty effective. Good value too: for the price of
a couple of newspaper ads, Help the Aged generated blanket coverage,
bringing the issue home to millions. It would have cost much more of the
funds they should be spending helping the aged to place an anodyne ad
across the whole media.
For me, the campaign’s PR success was summed up by the Daily Mail. Under
a half-page article about the campaign, illustrated using the
controversial poster, the paper proudly declares that it declined to
take the advert.
I bet the campaign planners were devastated.
I’ve a feeling that older people’s sensitivities to the campaign, while
considered, weren’t paramount here - it’s the young, warm and wealthy
that it is trying to target. I just hope some of them dig deep before
their interest wanes. But to get an opinion from the horse’s mouth, I
called my nan for her comments.
She hadn’t seen the campaign - it had been too cold recently to go down
the road for her paper. But she didn’t think she’d have been offended by