CAMPAIGNS: Judge and Jury - Ad campaign shows the price of ignoring the elderly in winter

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.

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

it.



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