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
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.