CAMPAIGNS: PUBLIC AWARENESS - Showing teens the tumbler test

Client: Meningitis Research Foundation

Client: Meningitis Research Foundation

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Get it Sussed

Timescale: June - December 1997

Cost: pounds 25,000

The charity, Meningitis Research Foundation balances its activities

between research and creating awareness of the meningococcal disease -

meningitis and septicaemia.

Over the two year period 1994 to 1996 the number of cases of meningitis

in young adults more than doubled. As the best chance of a cure comes

from early detection and treatment, the charity decided to create a

campaign aimed at raising awareness among 15- to 24-year olds.


To raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of both meningitis and

septicaemia in young people.


The charity decided the most effective way to reach its target audience

was through radio. It asked advertising agency Buckfield Lord to create

a 30-second radio commercial on meningitis, aimed at young adults. In

addition the Foundation’s head of PR, Julia Warren targeted the national

media with information and case studies of individuals who had

contracted the disease.

The campaign launched on 30 September at London’s Capital Radio Cafe,

with support from football legend, Denis Law, whose own son contracted

the disease at the age of 22.

After discussions with the National Union of Students, the charity sent

out resource packs with symptoms cards and posters to over 850

universities and colleges in the UK and republic of Ireland. It also

organised a national one-day conference in Birmingham on 21 October for

250 health professionals and student welfare staff.

In December, the campaign culminated with the relaunch of the

Foundation’s 1996 ’Tumbler Test’ TV informercial. This was fronted by

GMTV’s Doctor Hilary Jones demonstrating the need to take emergency

action if a rash does not fade under the pressure of a glass



The launch gained full page coverage from the Mirror and the Daily


Magazine interest included the Sunday People colour supplement Yes,

Woman’s Own and teenage title More. More than 50 radio stations,

including BBC Radio 1 and Radio 5 Live donated free air time to the

radio commercial on the day of the launch and many also used it as a

news piece.

The relaunch of the TV informercial gained national coverage on GMTV,

BBC Breakfast News and Channel 4 News. Half a dozen regional

broadcasters, including Border Television, donated free air time to the

informercial over two months, and it also appeared on BBC 1’s emergency

rescue programme, 999.


This campaign was particularly relevant in view of the increased number

of cases of meningitis and septicaemia among first year university

students at the end of last year.

At this early stage, it is difficult to gauge how far it impacted on

young people’s awareness of the disease. But, the Foundation has

received substantial orders for resource packs from universities and

colleges since its initial mailing. The charity’s Warren says she is

also aware of at least 20 new members who as a result of early diagnosis

using the tumbler test, sought probable life-saving emergency treatment.

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