Identity parade campaign points to one of Britain's deadliest killers

The potent symbol of a police line-up of potential criminals is at the heart of a snap campaign by WPP Health Practice and the UK Sepsis Trust to boost awareness of one of Britain's biggest killers.

The sepsis campaign image created by WPP Health Practice
The sepsis campaign image created by WPP Health Practice

Sepsis accounts for the deaths of some 52,000 Britons each year, far more than the 38,000 people who die from bowel cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

This fact is the key message of a campaign image created by a team from Wunderman Thompson Health and Ogilvy Health. Agency staff were inspired to act by the film Starfish – based on the true story of a family thrown into turmoil by sepsis – and gave their services free of charge.

The pro bono ‘Usual suspects’ campaign was put together in just two weeks. World Sepsis Day, last Friday, was chosen as the date to go public with the campaign – giant digital billboards across London displayed the image.

Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is when the body attacks its own tissues and organs in response to an infection. If not diagnosed and treated quickly it can rapidly lead to organ failure and death. At least 250,000 people develop sepsis in the UK every year, about half of whom die or suffer permanent, life-changing effects.

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, said: "Effective communications – both in terms of understanding and recognising the symptoms of sepsis, and responding to them quickly to accelerate care – are vital if we’re to reduce [its] devastating impact."


Tim Brierley, executive creative director health, London, at Wunderman Thompson Health, commented: "When a member of our team watched Starfish and saw the devastating impact of sepsis, it ignited a fire to raise awareness of what is largely a hidden killer."

He said: "With the help of our colleagues from Ogilvy Health, we created a simple campaign around a surprising fact – and made it all happen in two weeks. We’re thrilled to bring attention to something so serious that lurks in the shadows. The message underlines, once again, the power of creative communications and its importance to health."

Making a difference

The campaign has already made an impact, with one tweet alone getting 5,673 impressions and 229 engagements.

Suzie Warner, international head of comms at WPP Health Practice, told PRWeek: "When you are working at this speed it’s about the ability to quickly mobilise a mixture of creative, PR and media. With the sepsis project, thanks to the robust PR plan from Sepsis UK, we were able to build on the awareness they had generated with our creative work."

She said: "Adding media to the mix – by pulling in further WPP assistance with the help of MediaCom, generated the groundswell we needed to get the campaign trending."

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