CAMPAIGNS: Getting backs up in Bournemouth - Public Awareness

The Children’s Society runs three of Britain’s four safe-house refuges for child runaways. In 1995 the society ran a ’Game’s Up’ campaign which showed that children as young as ten were involved in child prostitution and being cautioned and convicted. The ’Child Prostitution in Britain’ campaign was launched on 6 March 1997 to implement the earlier findings with professionals working with young people.

The Children’s Society runs three of Britain’s four safe-house

refuges for child runaways. In 1995 the society ran a ’Game’s Up’

campaign which showed that children as young as ten were involved in

child prostitution and being cautioned and convicted. The ’Child

Prostitution in Britain’ campaign was launched on 6 March 1997 to

implement the earlier findings with professionals working with young

people.



Objectives



To raise public awareness of child prostitution and the work of The

Children’s Society. The charity also wanted to change the perception of

child prostitutes from criminals to victims by targeting the adults who

abuse young people.



Tactics



In January 1997 an in-house team organised a national conference on

child prostitution for 6 March 1997. The event took place at Regent’s

College in London and was chaired by broadcaster Anna Raeburn with Allan

Levy QC as the key speaker.



This coincided with the launch of the Society’s book Child Prostitution

in Britain, edited by David Barrett of the University of Luton.



An advertising campaign was organised through ad agency Impact FCA! to

promote these two events. This ran in the national and regional press,

local radio and cinemas.



Unfortunately, a story on the local press ad broke earlier than expected

on Monday 24 February in the Bournemouth Evening Echo. The ads asking

’Why travel six thousand miles to have sex with children when you can do

it in Bournemouth?’ kicked up a storm in the area. As a town that relies

on its tourist trade, it felt it was being unfairly targeted as a centre

for paedophiles.



Ads also ran in other regions, naming Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and

South Wales, where the Society also had projects, but these caused less

offence than those in Bournemouth.



Despite assurances that the ads naming Bournemouth were only used

locally, the story hit the national press and there was a question

raised on BBC 1’s Question Time. Ian Sparks, chief executive of the

society, issued a statement the following Tuesday, apologising to the

town for any offence caused and the ads were withdrawn from the

area.



Results



Over 250 childcare professionals attended the conference and the Society

is confident that the book will more than cover costs.



Media coverage was initially concerned with the advertising campaign

which the Observer described as ’irresponsible’. This was further

complicated by questions over the accuracy of Peter Kominsky’s ITV

’docudrama’ on child abuse, No Child of Mine, which was shown

coincidentally in the same week, on 25 February.



However the conference did receive extensive national coverage, ranging

from Radio 4’s Today programme to the Daily Telegraph. Regional interest

ranged from the South Wales Argus to BBC TV’s Look North News in

Leeds.



Sandra Horniman, PR manager for The Children’s Society, has no regrets

about the advertising campaign. She says: ’We always knew it was going

to be controversial, but sometimes you have to be shocking to get the

message across.’ She is unhappy the national spotlight fell on

Bournemouth, but feels that the local media rather than the charity were

responsible.



Tim Clarke from the Bournemouth Evening Echo complained that the charity

took over a week to apologise. However, Horniman says the newspaper got

the wrong end of the stick.



Verdict



A controversial campais is a tried and tested way of generatingmassive

extra publicity. It worked well here although the charity had to work

hard to avoid the row overshadowing their message.



Client: The Children’s Society

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Child Prostitution in Britain

Timescale: January - 6 March 1997

Cost: pounds 10,000 (excluding costs of conference and book)



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