Client: The Dying Rooms Trust
PR Team: Omer-li Cohen PR
Campaign: To increase awareness and raise funds for The Dying Rooms
Timescale: July 1996 - December 1996
Cost: pounds 500,000 - the majority through charitable donations
The Dying Rooms Trust charity was set up in the wake of a flood of
unsolicited donations following the broadcast of two award-winning TV
documentaries which highlighted the plight of Chinese orphan girls.
Omer-li Cohen, managing director of Omer-li Cohen PR, was so moved by
the documentaries that she approached the Trust and offered to set up a
campaign for no fee, enlisting the support of friends, colleagues,
celebrities, including Paul McCartney and Elton John and organisations
including The Body Shop, Mothercare and Island Records.
To revive awareness of the plight of Chinese orphans and to raise pounds
250,000 this year and pounds 1million thereafter per annum for the Dying
Rooms Trust, through a new donations phoneline and Freepost address.
Omer-li Cohen PR chose the The Dying Rooms Trust logo, a kite, as the
campaign’s emblem. A 60-second film called ‘Kite’ launched the campaign
at a star-studded press launch on 31 July at Planet Hollywood. The
commercial was screened in 19 independent cinemas and will be shown in
multiplexes in October and November.
Omer-li Cohen PR worked with sponsors to maximise the impact of the
campaign, setting up billboards, a roving poster truck, and an Internet
site. Postcards with the message ‘In China sex is a matter of life and
death - boys live, girls die’ and the charity’s freephone number were
placed in restaurants.
Omer-li Cohen PR chose shops with a politically aware image, such as The
Body Shop, in which to conduct a shop window campaign, marketing T-
shirts and bags emblazoned with the ‘boys live, girls die’ logo. It is
also helping to market a Chinese kite designed for the Trust by Worlds
Apart. Kites will be launched at festivals all over the UK culminating
in a kite flying extravaganza in June 1997 to mark the transfer of Hong
Kong to Chinese rule.
The only resistance to the campaign came from the CAA, which licenses
cinema commercials, which disputed whether the Dying Rooms existed in
China and demanded that the ‘Kite’ commercial was toned down before
Nine days after the first news releases were sent out, the Chinese
Government admitted for the first time the existence of the Dying Rooms
and acknowledged that the problem was so great it required dollars 8.6
billion aid from the World Bank. While Omer-li Cohen PR does not take
responsibility for this turnaround, it believes the campaign was ‘the
straw that broke the camel’s back’.
Before the campaign launch, pledges were petering out, with a mean of
pounds 5,000 brought in each month. At the time of going to press, the
number of people pledging money has increased by 28 per cent.
The campaign was aided by an existing awareness and sympathy for the
problem, although previous coverage following the documentaries may
have limited the amount of new interest Omer-li Cohen could hope to
The campaign launch was overshadowed by two high-profile domestic ‘baby’
stories: the destruction of frozen embryos in fertility clinics and
news of a woman pregnant with eight babies. Omer-li Cohen PR attempted
to draw attention back to the campaign by ‘piggy-backing’ the plight of
Chinese orphans on to these stories.
Omer-li Cohen PR was praised by the media for its sincerity, enthusiasm
and creativity. The press launch was well-received but journalists have
commented that the campaign has now become almost invisible. Some were
disappointed that they had not been kept informed of developments since
It remains to be seen whether the cinema advertisements will
reinvigorate the campaign and bring it to a wider audience.