#writerscrawl: Big Bang - Leo Burnett, the NSPCC and beautiful writing

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#writerscrawl: Big Bang - Leo Burnett, the NSPCC and beautiful writing


“My name’s I’m Alfie and I’m an astronaut”.

A great line and a great representative of the copy style that Leo Burnett’s creative director Beri Cheetham and head of innovation Kit Altin took us through during their session at the #writerscrawl Big Bang.

The power of words

It is the task of copywriters and creatives to make sure that what is written truly counts. Using Leo their work for the NSPCC, Beri and Kit took us through on a journey through how the right words make for beautiful work.

Today’s words are buried in clutter

The NSPCC, Beri told us, are a favourite client at Leo’s. They have a rich story to tell and a role as an organisation that works to change society.

But their message was muddled, and their words didn’t resonate amongst the perpetual noise “out there”. The NSPCC also suffered, Beri added, from an image and a tone of voice that was too harsh and too confrontational.

The writing task was to make the NSPCC a partner to parents, not a school teacher or policeman, in work that tackled the dangers of the online world for children and abuse at home.

A digital stop, look and listen.

Approaches to child safety used to be so simple and straight forward in their execution, Beri told us, that Leo’s own approach in their Share Aware campaign for the NSPCC would try to bring that style into the digital age.

The art would be in simplifying the huge range of dangers and threats that children can face when they head online – and not demonise the internet in the process.

Not too cool for school, but…

The Share Aware campaign targeted two audiences: kids and their parents. So the writing had to be nuanced, to reach a point where children could understand and engage, and their parents wouldn’t be left out of the conversation.

Beri pointed out that storytelling came into its own here to help Leo’s develop the right voice for the campaign. In scripting the Be Share Aware ad, the writing tone ran from comedic and engaging, into serious and thought-provoking as the story arc landed its powerful message, all the while the piece functions for adult and younger audiences.

And it has been a huge success, with Kit pointing out that over 70% of UK schools use the NSPCC work to teach kids about how and what to share online.

“My name’s Alfie and I’m an astronaut”

Post-Saville charities were in a tough situation. Child abuse, Kit pointed out, was seen as somewhat endemic and people felt they would be unable to help regardless, so donations dipped and interest in these causes waned.

So in creating Alfie the astronaut the writing balance was again key said Beri – happy, clappy advertising just wouldn’t work. It was finding the right words to reach a balance between light and dark that would make the difference.

Be authentic in your stories

Because people are inured to shock ads and tough imagery, Beri and Kit made the point that engaging the audience comes through storytelling and authenticity.

In raising awareness and action around child abuse they settled on two big ideas: the young Alfie character and his dream to be free of abuse and the idea that donations really do matter and can take children into better places.

Alfie’s voice is written with the short, abrupt, childlike sentencing and pacing that gives it a total authenticity, from expressing his dreams to the way he describes his abuse, said Beri.

The session closed with Beri and Kit telling us that copy has change the way the NSPCC brand is perceived – but it has taken a client brave enough to see the benefits of a totally fresh approach to the NSPCC voice.

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