Business Media & Marketing

Thursday 19 October 2017

AdLib: Students Focus on helping homeless

Brendan Gleeson accused the ad industry of touting lies
Brendan Gleeson accused the ad industry of touting lies
Rachel Murray and Carol Lambert, Publicis, with Brian Durnin, Red Rage Films, at the Publicis party

Michael Cullen i

Charity, they say, begins at home. When it comes to Focus Ireland, it's about helping those who don't have a home. Just recently, 173 people slept rough in Dublin - a record high. And 12 families with 30 children were referred to Garda stations. Mention homelessness and most people think about the rough sleeper curled up in doorways and stretched out on park benches.

One group of students from this year's DIT's AdGrad masters in advertising course presented a Focus Ireland campaign to the ad industry where they pointed out that the public has become desensitised. Society needs to be stirred to think and act differently about homelessness - to confront the causes, systemic failures, people's perceptions and proffer ideas on how best to lessen the problem.

Creative agency Bishop & Bride was asked to come up with new ideas to help ensure Focus Ireland's message hit home. Efforts to influence the target audience of middle-class women, aged 55 to 70, were based on research findings showing Irish people are generous by nature and want to make a difference to other people's lives.

One comment was "people should be supported, not hounded". Likewise, they believe government needs to do more to tackle homelessness. With the many scandals surrounding charities in Ireland, people also want to know where their money is going and the difference donations make. Family is important to the target audience and a home is everything.

The students came up a campaign slogan built around the line 'We save families'. The creative would build a rapport with donors by telling real-life stories in a series of radio documentaries called 'Focus on Families'. The stories would be edited down and used in press and radio ads and on social media. The High Hopes charity could come on board with a High Hopes Choir and the release of a fundraising single and online videos.

The narrative would be further driven by a donations bus touring festivals nationwide, while 1,400 pillows would highlight the number of families Focus Ireland saved from homelessness last year. A €700,000 ad budget would include press ads in the shape of houses on the property pages in the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and the 'Irish Times'. As tea drinking is engraved in Irish culture, the normal shelves stocking Barry's and Lyons tea in supermarkets would be left vacant with signs saying 'rehoused elsewhere' and stocks repositioned in another part of the store. A promotion urging consumers to vote in favour of Barry's or Lyons tea would be run nationwide with each vote costing €2.

Such a corporate social responsibility campaign would reflect well on the two brands and positively raise Focus Ireland's profile. Efforts would also be made to get free ads from Goodwill Rocks. A report on the CMRF Crumlin presentation from AdGrad 17 will feature in AdLib soon.

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Brendan Gleeson is unlikely to front an Irish ad campaign anytime soon. The highly-rated and straight-talking actor was damning in his assessment of advertising's influence in an interview with Brendan O'Connor on RTE Radio 1 at the weekend. Gleeson started by saying how ill at ease he felt in a tuxedo "fibbing in front of a camera" for Rehab Lotteries.

Although he once thought he might like to work in an ad agency, he now describes the business as "insidious". He accused adland of touting lies and said its corrupting influence undermines people by making them feel like "losers", lacking something in their lives. Just as well the former teacher doesn't have to rely on voicing radio commercials to earn a living, unlike many of his fellow thespians.

Gleeson's main reason in talking to O'Connor was to plug his new movie. In 'Hampstead', he plays a man living in a shack on London's Hampstead Heath who's threatened with eviction. Diane Keaton plays the American widow who befriends him. Some critics describe it as "a Notting Hill-type romcom".

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If new business was awarded on the basis of how well an ad agency hosts a party, Publicis might well clean up. The Irish arm of the worldwide French group held their annual summer soiree at its offices on Sir John Rogerson's Quay. Despite heavy downpours, there was no raining on the parade as Jerry Fish and his Electric Side Show, transformed the agency's tented rooftop into a New Orleans mardi gras, complete with a marching band, fire breathers, a limbo line, face painters extraordinary and even a python.

The night's highlight was a lip sync challenge with creative director Ger Roe mimicking Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury. Digital strategy director Ed Melvin and TG4's Padraic Ó Raighne paired up for David Bowie and Mick Jagger's Dancing in the Street. But copywriter Luke O'Reilly stole the show with his mimicry.

Michael Cullen is editor of Marketing.ie; cullen@marketing.ie

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