Every Christmas, we see romanticised images of the ‘Holy Land’. Everything looks calm and peaceful. Yet today, the Middle East is ravaged by war. For charity Doctors of the World, we brought this inconvenient irony to the fore with #RealityXmas - a set of Christmas cards designed to spark debate, provoke outrage, get petition signatures and increase donations.
Combining traditional nativity scenes, synonymous with the festive season, with genuine 2016 editorial war images, they become a set of unique, and powerful visuals went global, gaining an unprecedented response.
We put the cards for sale online – so people could purchase them, and spread the message themselves. And upon purchase people could opt to sign the petition and apply pressure to government in light of the ongoing Aleppo crisis.
We also used the cards to write hundreds of personal messages to influences in media (Christiane Amanpur, Jon Snow), as well as politicians (Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn) high-profile humanitarians (Kofi Annan, António Guterres) and religious leaders (The Archbishop of Canterbury).
Over the course of the build up to Christmas and advent, we had a tight window of opportunity to create maximum impact. To drive signatures and raise funds.
With a budget of just £3,101 we began with a small run of 2120 cards. But these sold out within 48 hours. We re-invested to produce an additional 2 runs to meet demand, to keep momentum going for the duration of advent.
The campaign was a resounding success. Not only did it achieve what we set out to do, but completely exceeded expectations.
1- Taking the global media by storm:
• The cards achieved 1.78 billion online impressions
• It was an international success – with coverage on global media outlets: CNN news, BBC Online, Time magazine and International Business Times
• Covered by a wide range of publications across the world, including the US, Australia, Israel, Indonesia, Netherlands, Korea, Brazil, Germany, Malaysia, and South Africa to name but a few.
2- Making a global audience stop, think and take action:
• The cards generated such popularity that they sold out within 48 hours – resulting in 2 further print runs.
• It sparked debate and conversation – even amongst the Religious community about the relevance of religion within the Middle East conflict.
• The activity and resulting coverage led to a 1853% increase in website traffic.
• Most importantly, the campaign achieved 152,468 ‘Free Aleppo’ petition signatures (7,623% above our objective of 2,000)
3- Adding a valuable stream of income through donations:
• The income generated from selling the cards was 336% above our initial target, enabling DOTW volunteers to continue to provide critical medical aid across the Middle East.
Above all though, it shouldn’t be underestimated the result that this campaign had in shining a light on an important issue at a time of great need, and with no media spend, putting a small charity on the global map.
We feel this work is relevant as we cultivated relationships with third-parties, using earned media to influence public dialogue, in order to generate action, whilst simultaneously making our charity synonymous with its chosen cause. We began with the objective of gaining 2,000 petition signatures to pressure the UK government into opening a medical air corridor over Aleppo. However the project achieved a staggering 152,468. With donations 336% above initial target, and coverage on CNN Worldwide and BBC Online amongst others. All this from a humble set of 4, visually arresting Christmas cards – on a shoe-string budget of just £3,101.
Our PR strategy was to achieve maximum impact within a small seasonal window: advent. Focusing on our provocative Christmas Cards as our core campaign element, surrounded by print, radio, social media and OOH.
Our target audience – to ensure the message spread, and people signed the petition – were international, professionals and retirees, those interested in humanitarian issues, as well as the mid-market and encouraging action from beyond the usual third sector supporters in media. But most significantly, we targeted politicians through this coverage, and the cards themselves, to apply pressure at this critical time.
The call to action was simple: purchase the cards and by doing so spread the word, and sign the petition – to bring the Aleppo crises to the fore.