Around here we like nothing more than creativity put to great use. Last Friday night, in a cinema in central London, St John Ambulance (a BBH London client) staged an event they hope the audience – and anyone watching the film of what took place – won’t forget for a while. The film you see here was edited at speed over the weekend. Below, we catch up with one of the CDs on the project and share our starters for ten on what perhaps we can take from it.
First up, inbetween edits, Adrian Rossi told us a bit about how the idea came about.
“People eat popcorn in cinema. One of the main reasons people, especially children, choke is from eating popcorn. So we thought how do we make people in a cinema audience (and beyond) question the importance of First Aid. To shake them out of that lethargy that “It won’t happen to me.” Or “Someone will know what to do.”
There were several parts to this. The first was writing and filming a commercial for popcorn that felt believeable as a real popcorn ad. Something that no one would even question. This meant trawling through bland commercial after bland commercial to get the feeling for the language, music and pacing. Even finding a unique popcorn name which felt real and which hadn’t been used before. This kept people in their ad comfort zone. These ads almost kind of wash over you in the cinema. Which is what happened when it played in the cinema, people carried on chatting, looking at their phones and of course eating popcorn.
After creating this idyllic ‘ad family’, we shatter it by having the little girl choke and the Mum – understandably – completely lose it. The actress who played the ‘Mum’ was amazing. She cried on cue so many times during the shoot itself, amazing to do it once – but to keep to carry on doing it – extraordinary. It was one of the most emotional shoots I or any of the crew had been involved with. Everyone was absolutely drained afterwards.
Like all good stories there had to be a third act. Here, we had an individual in the audience volunteer to help, then run down the cinema aisle and disappear behind the curtains at the side of the screen, before you see her appear in the film itself. Getting the timing and her eyeline (so it felt the two actresses were actually looking at each other and talking to each other) right as she made her way through several hundred people and onto the stage, then behind the curtain to reappear a beat later in the film… that was the nerve wrecking part. This hadn’t been done before. It worked perfectly, the actress, Joanna, nailed it. Even reducing one corner of the cinema audience to gasp and point.
For Joanna she was only half way through her performance – she had to reappear on the other side of the curtains just as her onscreen character leaves, after saving the little girl. This was the real feelgood moment – as she appeared, the entire audience broke into spontaneous applause. This wasn’t scripted, but it made for a genuinely uplifting end to the experience and worth all the effort everyone had put into it.
I believe in this idea and St John Ambulance so much that even though I left BBH 3 months ago I’ve taken holiday from my new agency, Glue, to do all the rehearsals and shoot the cinema event itself. And that goes for almost everyone involved in this project from the beginning – too many people to mention have believed in this and have given up their time and more to make this the best it could possibly be.
There was always that element of risk and nerves attached to doing a live performance as you can’t control entirely what might happen. In the end everyone went with it. Seeing a couple of people reduced to tears and the entire audience spontaneously clapping at the end makes you realise the power a message like this can carry. Strangely, people didn’t seem to be eating so much popcorn afterwards. . .’
What can we do now?
Not to put too finer a point on it, we can all be the difference. Here we’re celebrating the thinking behind this idea by sharing the film, as well as the accompanying campaign collateral (below). We hope you will too, either by sharing the link to the film which is up on the St John Ambulance site and/or YouTube.
We believe there are a few things to take away from all of this – some are age-old advertising truths, some a little more new-fangled. Please let us know what you think:
1. A clearly defined problem: St John Ambulance know there are 150,000 deaths every year in the UK that could be prevented if someone in the vicinity knew first aid.
2. A relentless focus: St John Ambulance could be about a lot of things, but they are focused on First Aid. They believe no-one should be out of reach of someone who can help in an emergency. Someone who can *be the difference*.
3. Imagination + commitment beat money: this idea is more proof, if proof were needed, that big impact doesn’t rely necessarily upon big budgets.
4. Coherency beats consistency: each component part of the campaign (print campaign, the cinema event, an iPhone app and a pocket-sized guide) adds layers of knowledge and usability. Different, connected platforms, not identikit, matching luggage.
5. Awareness is not enough. The St John Ambulance team want this film to be watched and shared, but most of all they want it to acted upon. The advertising doesn’t simply tell a dramatic story, it a) gives us basic and top line knowledge about what to do in an emergency and b) gives us somewhere to go – text SAVE to 82727 in the UK for a free pocket-sized guide to Essential First Aid, which covers five common conditions where straightforward first aid could be the difference between a life lost and a life saved:
And if the booklet’s not your thing, you can try the branded iPhone app (note: the app costs £2.39):
St John’s Ambulance: Scott Jacobson – Director of Marketing Communications & Fundraising
BBH Creative Directors: Alex Grieve and Adrian Rossi
BBH Producer: Olivia Chalk
BBH Asst Producer: Chris Watling
BBH Team Directors: Louise Addley, Nick Stringer
Director: Jeff Labbe
Producer: Gregory Cundiff, Gabi Kay
Production Company: Sonny London
Director of Photography: Daniel Bronks
Sound: Wave Studios, BBH Voodoo
Post Production: The Mill
Editor/Editing: Sam Gunn, The Whitehouse
Media Partners: DCM – Louise Trinder, Jill Cooper
Digital Cinema Media and the Cineworld Haymarket – Ash Chaudry
Special thanks also to the team behind the scenes: Emma Shepherd (PR Manager at St John Ambulance), Kevin Brown, Helen Kenny, Zak Razvi, Lucy Powell, Justin Abuzid, Christina Collins, Tracy Blyth, Andrew Southam, Romy Miller, JoJo Jenkins, Gemma Smith, Hannah Gibson and Paisley Wright.