In July 1996, The National Meningitis Trust (NMT) received a pounds
163,000 grant from the National Lotteries Charities Board, with a
further pounds 17,000 from Trust funds dedicated to PR.
Historically the NMT’s efforts had been aimed at reducing the impact of
meningitis on young children and babies, the highest risk group, however
recent figures from the Public Health Laboratory showed that confirmed
cases of meningicoccal infection among 15- to 24-year-olds had steadily
increased, reaching a 20 per cent increase last year.
The charity saw pitches from four advertising agencies, but following a
presentation from PR outfit the Target Consultancy hired the PR and
advertising team at the Target Group to create an integrated programme
To raise awareness of the risks and symptoms at a national level of
meningitis among 15- to 24-year-olds.
Target issued an regional media appeal around the UK for someone in the
target age group who had either had meningitis or knew someone who had
overcome the disease to come forward and tell their story for a
An overwhelming number of people turned out for the casting and
18-year-old Debbie Mitchell, who was deafened by meningitis, was chosen
to star in a cinema ad. Runners-up supported the campaign by acting as
regional media spokespeople.
The agency obtained all campaign materials at cost, and the production
company, Kronfli Duliba, produced the commercial for free. The only
major outgoing involved the pounds 148,000 cost of buying media space at
cinemas throughout the country.
On October 14th the advertisement was launched at the Odeon Leicester
Square featuring Debbie using sign language to show the symptoms of
Press releases and copies of the commercial were distributed to all
regional and national media.
Posters and leaflets were developed, placed and distributed to cinemas
and colleges, schools and universities. A freephone number was
advertised for anyone who wanted an information pack.
In December, a meningitis outbreak at Cardiff University left regional
media clamouring from factual information about the disease and Target
and the NMT were able to provide positive messages about early
Media coverage included regional and national broadcast and press.
Interviews conducted with either Debbie or a supporting cast member
includedg GMTV, the BBC’s Really Useful Show, and the National
Target tracked awareness before and during the campaign. Before,
awareness of meningitis and its symptoms was one-in-10. That improved to
one-in-five. Prior to the launch young adult focus groups prompted
awareness of 12 per cent, during the campaign this rose to 20 per
As a one-off opportunity, created by the National Lottery grant, the
Sign campaign was a well-rounded, integrated campaign seamlessly joining
advertising and PR to effectively convey and important and emotive
The Cardiff University outbreak only served to underline the seriousness
of a the threat to an age group notorious for their belief in their own
Client: National Meningitis Trust
PR Team: Target Consultancy
Campaign: ’Signs’ Youth Awareness Campaign
Timescale: Winter 1996/97
Cost: pounds 15,000 (plus pounds 148,000 for cinema advertising space)