'It was crucial to involve deaf people throughout' - Behind the Campaign, 'Sign With Fingers Big & Small'

Tin Man founder Mandy Sharp discusses the recent campaign for Cadbury Fingers that encourages the nation to learn some British Sign Language.

What was the campaign in a nutshell?

The campaign was designed to encourage the hearing community to learn simple phrases in British Sign Language (BSL) and reduce the feeling of exclusion that 50 per cent of deaf people experience every day. We invited deaf talent to release juicy gossip, but in BSL, sparking FOMO and buzz within the media. Essentially, we wanted to encourage the nation to empathise and understand the frustrations felt within the deaf community and practise better deaf awareness.

How did the idea come into being?

Cadbury Fingers is all about using emotion to bring people together for shared moments. Its latest partnership with the National Deaf Children’s Society aims to break down barriers between hearing and deaf people to facilitate more of these moments. The new ‘Sign With Fingers Big and Small’ campaign was designed to celebrate this partnership and highlight the feeling of exclusion experienced by deaf people. The initiative encouraged more people to learn BSL by visiting the campaign hub where lessons were available.

To bring this to life in earned media, a panel of deaf talent including recent Love Island contestant Tasha Ghouri and Strictly winner Giovanni Pernice (who partnered with deaf contestant Rose Ayling-Ellis on the show) announced exclusive news and gossip to their combined 2.5 million followers on their social channels. The twist? It was in BSL with no subtitles, deliberately driving feelings of FOMO, at times even anger and frustration, but eventually empathy among followers and media.

We supported the stunt with influencer content and news research highlighting the issue and identifying hearing people’s appetite to learn BSL if given the right tools.

What ideas were rejected?

There were two creative ways to approach this brief, either by dramatising the problem – the exclusion deaf people face – or by highlighting the benefits of learning BSL. We strategically wanted to stay as close as possible to the AV and be as single-minded as possible so we opted for the former.

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process

It was a collaborative planning process between all of the agency partners, the client team and the National Deaf Children’s Society. We worked closely with creative agency VCCP to ensure all creative ideas laddered up to the overall strategy and campaign. All agencies adopted a ‘one team’ approach, enabling us to create a 360 campaign that spanned PR, media, influencers and owned.

A huge part of the process was working with deaf consultants along the way – from testing creative routes by them, to ensuring language used in materials was representative.

What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

It was really important to ensure our campaign was truly representative of the challenges deaf people face – and therefore it was crucial to involve deaf people throughout the process.

We worked closely with the National Deaf Children’s Society and a co-creation panel made up of deaf people at every step of the journey to ensure we had the most representative and inclusive campaign possible. Their feedback was taken on board at every stage – from refining the creative idea, to ensuring we had the right talent and influencers on board – to creating campaign assets in BSL – such as our campaign press release.

How did you measure the results and what were they?

A full measurement framework is in place for the campaign, which was co-created by all agencies and the client team. This covers brand sentiment, impact, awareness and attitudes, behavioural shifts and direct sales.

As the campaign is still in flight, we don’t have final results but looking at the earned metrics to date we’re confident we’re on a great track. We’ve had coverage in every national news title, a six-minute segment on Sky News Sunrise where Tasha taught the presenter BSL, more than 5.5 million combined organic video views and more than 5,000 positive comments on talent social content, which showcases intent to learn some BSL.

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the campaign?

Collaboration and authenticity is key. When developing purpose-led campaigns that involve representing specific communities, ensure you are consulting experts all the way along and truly listen to feedback. One wrong move can offend or spark backlash, which would completely defeat the purpose of this campaign.

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