Emma Foulds, Director of Marketing and Strategy at Guide Dogs, talks to us about their latest brand campaign, 'Nell's story', which focuses on the wide range of services Guide Dogs provide for children and young people.
Guide Dogs exists to help people with sight loss to lead the life they choose and our By My Side 5-year strategy identified the importance of investing in our brand to increase awareness of what we do and the wide breadth of services we offer.
Everyone knows us for our iconic dogs. Our Sponsor a Puppy (SAP) and legacy fundraising campaigns are well known, but research revealed there was little understanding or empathy amongst the general public of sight loss as a cause or the fact Guide Dogs supports people from birth. This was the area we wanted to shine a light on with our new campaign.
In order to create the most authentic campaign, we conducted research sessions with families of children with sight loss to understand the real-life everyday experiences, challenges, and concerns faced when living with a visual impairment. Additionally, we spoke to our own specialists working with children and families every day to provide expertise and support.
Through this research, we created the concept of “Nell’s first day”, which is all about a little five-year-old girl with a vision impairment, who Guide Dogs has been supporting since she was a baby. We see Nell’s journey through school corridors, showing how she enters a classroom to be greeted by her Guide Dogs habilitation specialist who is helping to get her ready for the start of term. In a heart-warming end to the ad, we see Nell arrive at school on her first day, happy and confident amongst her peers. Full advert here: youtu.be/Pwg4xai8TuA and AD version youtu.be/trKjAT-pTmc.
Our concept was well-researched and well-received amongst our test group so the plan was full steam ahead for us to bring this to life through an above-the-line TV, digital, social, and PR campaign. However, just before we were able to shoot the advert, the global pandemic hit.
Creating a new TV ad during Covid-19
After careful consideration and consultation with Nell and her family; as well as our health and safety team, we made the decision to proceed with filming after the first national lockdown was lifted ensuring we were adhering to government guidelines which was of paramount importance.
We were very lucky that Nell, the star of our advert, and the child playing her friend in the ad are sisters in real life so social distancing rules did not apply. However, there were many other challenges to mitigate against. We produced a detailed risk assessment which was strictly followed with general interaction between everyone kept to a minimum. All action shots were planned so that safe distances were in place between cast and crew. Camera angels were created where necessary to make those involved appear closer than they really were. Those required on the set - crew, and cast – were reduced and different groups had separate rooms throughout the school allocated to them to operate out of.
All activities were planned so that a distance of 2m apart was maintained and we ensured activity time was kept as short as possible. We used back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) wherever possible and reduced the number of people in enclosed spaces and improved ventilation in these areas. Everyone was provided with face masks, gloves, visors, alcohol gel hand wash, and alcohol wipes. Needless to say, filming this advert was like no other and a real learning curve for the team.
The campaign’s success
Key objectives for the campaign were driving awareness of our children and young people’s (CYP) services; an increase in buzz and spontaneous awareness amongst our target audience. To date, we have run two integrated brand advertising campaigns centring on ‘Nell’s Story’, across paid, earned, owned, and shared media channels. In total we have secured over 200 pieces of media coverage; over 20m impressions and over 8m video views across all social channels. To leverage the brand halo effect, fundraising ran a single gift ask which also had a strong conversion rate. Across the board, we exceeded our key objectives with brand buzz and spontaneous awareness reaching an all-time high for Guide Dogs and with research showing a significant increase in awareness of Guide Dogs providing CYP services.
These results signify our brand campaigns are causing people (across the whole population, not just our target audience) to feel more positively about sight loss as a cause and the impact Guide Dogs makes with our breadth of services. However, there is still more to do in raising this awareness, understanding, and advocacy as we enter the 90th anniversary year of the first-ever guide dog partnership.