CAMPAIGNS: Message signed and delivered - Public Awareness

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.

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

entitled ’Signs’.


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)

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