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Little Stars

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The facts are simple and terrible: on average, two children in every UK classroom will suffer abuse.  And one in every four children that seeks help from the NSPCC won’t get through because of a severe lack in funding. Child abuse is an inconvenient truth that we prefer to ignore – Britons leave more money to animal sanctuaries than the NSPCC. 

Facing a long-term decrease in donations, the marketing challenge was clear: it needed a campaign to get people emotionally invested to the point where they would donate.

To tackle this, OMD used some key insights:

• Cultural: Although donation intent goes up 31% at Christmas, a child welfare conversation is a difficult one to have amongst all the festive noise of tinsel, trees, shopping and socialising.

• Creative: Shocking scenes in black and white adverts were no longer working (- £10.8m donations vs 2011), it needed a positive approach to demonstrate how the NSPCC helps. 

• Brand: The NSPCC name is well-known but provides 49 different services, it is a complicated proposition to understand. Awareness was high (85%) but less than 30% could name any services. Agency research showed that a better understanding of what the NSPCC actually do would increase propensity to donate by 26%. 


The strategy came from a simple human truth - whatever faith, creed or colour we are there has been a time when we’ve all looked up at the night sky and ‘thanked our lucky stars’. Now picture the scene: laden with bags, crushed by crowds, tired and tetchy, Christmas shopping is stressful.

At times like these a little perspective can go a long way and that’s exactly what this gave people.

London’s Oxford Street is one of the world’s most iconic shopping streets, and the Christmas Light switch-on ceremony signals the start of Christmas across the UK. The charity sponsored the nation’s renowned Christmas lights with a twist. It transformed the lights, powered by 300,000 lightbulbs into 300,000 ‘Little Star’ opportunities to donate. People could buy them alongside dedicating a message to a loved one.

The journey was simple. Donors visited the microsite, chose the location of their ‘Little Star’, made a donation, wrote a dedication and shared it with a loved one. Messages could be posted across social platforms creating a groundswell of earned media and spanned heart-warming dedications to children, people they had lost and even one marriage proposal.

The strategy helped the NSPCC shine brighter than the competition at Christmas. The goodwill positioned them in a celebratory light and tapped into the people’s positive and festive mind-sets.

But to live far beyond Oxford Street, it needed people to understand how the NSPCC helped, which would drive engagement with the campaign - motivating them to dig deep and donate.

OMD achieved this in two ways: first, a Metro/MailOnline partnership for major scale and editorial integration. Second, social momentum that would come from people sharing their dedications starting with NSPCC ambassadors, Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer. As momentum grew, more celebrities joined the initiative, and by the end agents were calling in to get their high-profile clients involved.


Success came from a multi-layered approach:

• Driving understanding to galvanise support

The Metro and Mail partnership told the NSPCC’s story, with 11 weeks of celebrity-fronted coverage featuring children that have benefitted and the volunteers that help. Wayne Rooney launched with a Metro front-cover and five-page feature. 

The switch-on issue was a full Metro takeover with editorial throughout and even advertisers creating bespoke Little Stars copy. The MailOnline mirrored the content and drove digital scale with HPTO’s and native video placements.

Unilad’s emotional Facebook video featuring Aaron, who tragically lost his younger brother to suicide, stressed the importance of supporting children who need help. It was viewed 573k times, with six people bravely opening up about their own suffering in the comments.

• Dominating Oxford Street

The sponsorship is the UK’s biggest OOH holding (43.9m visitors) which OMD bolstered with buses, digital posters and underground panels. It even took Little Stars into 12 stores, with retailers selling branded pin badges.

It geo-fenced Oxford Street with Weve and Snapchat to make sure visitors received follow up messages and anyone taking Snaps could add Little Stars filters before posting. 

The pedestrianised switch-on day had 1.1m visitors. John Lewis even threw a Little Stars rooftop party pulling in high profile donors. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, pledged his support on stage whilst Capital Radio broadcast the event to 2.3m listeners.

• Celebrity support = social momentum

51 celebrities dedicated Little Stars including the Prime Minister, Paul McCartney, Dermot O’Leary, Michael Sheen and John Hurt. Celebrity social reach was 20m+ and the impetus created by people seeing it was huge.


Results remain confidential at client’s request. 

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United Kingdom
October - December 2016
Media Channel:
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