Moving images

Frightened and alone, a young boy seems lost in dense woodland.
And then he stumbles into a clearing where he is greeted by his
foster family.

This symbolic 30-second storyline makes up what could well be
the first ever foray into live action cinema advertising by a local
authority for the recruitment of foster carers.

Leicestershire Council, like many other organisations, struggles
to recruit enough foster carers to match need and replace those who
retire. It estimates that 20 new foster carers are needed each
year. However, conventional campaigns – posters, leaflets and so on
– have not produced the required numbers. So, it was time to think

“We just thought a visual advert would work better than the
standard photographs and copy that you might see in the local
papers,” says communications and consultation officer, Sue Eato.
“We wanted something to have a visual impact that would plant the
seed and want people to then go and find out more.”

Because it was made in broadcast quality by an ex-ITV crew, the
film can be used in any format. “But we thought cinema would be
different and we could target the films we show it with. We spent a
lot of time working out who would go and see what film,” adds

It premiered on 4 February with the star-packed Ocean’s Twelve.
“I thought it was better than the film it went out with,” says
Leicestershire foster carer, Yvonne Hoey. “This is a great way of
recruiting foster carers. It’s a really positive, refreshing

The council also negotiated a discount price for each showing
because the cinemas considered social services to be a good cause.
Apart from August and December (“dead months”) the film is set to
be playing in at least one cinema each week throughout the

Assistant communications and consultation officer Tim
Barnes-Clay says he was inspired by the “Could You?” adverts used
by the police. “I thought we could do something along those lines.
It’s very difficult to get an idea across in just 30 seconds. But
we’re hoping that the ad will be the trigger to get people
thinking; or those who have thought about it, to now take it a step
further,” he says.

As well as using the advert, its creation provided a newsworthy
story in its own right. Positive coverage in the main local paper
and a 90-second slot on Central News sparked readers and viewers to
contact the council to find out more about fostering. Indeed, the
item was also run on the network’s west midlands edition
(Leicestershire receives the east midlands news), as the film’s
child actor, signed up from the Central TV’s Children’s Workshop,
lives in that area. This resulted in the bonus of enquiries from
interested people from Birmingham.

However, because the ad is very new and is intended to work in a
subtle way, it will understandably take some time to judge its
effectiveness given that people in turn take time to finally take
that step to make the call to become a foster carer.

The quality of the ad also allows it to play in different media:
“The council has information service shops in various rural
locations around the county and this is also playing on plasma
screens in these service shops. And it will soon be playing in The
Shires – Leicester’s large shopping mall,” says Eato.

At first, many people – some sceptical – needed to be convinced
about this innovative project. Inevitably, opposition tended to
centre on cost. But Eato stood and stands her ground: “Businesses
use marketing and advertising all over the world. Why shouldn’t we
use creative media? Making films such as this can appear to be
expensive but writing and printing leaflets is also expensive. To
reach people, to wake them up, you have to use subliminal messages
and emotions. And this film taps into those emotions to get people
interested in fostering and adoption. If it gets results it is
money well spent,” she says.

Lessons Learned

  • Looking back, it was recognised that more opportunity could
    have been taken to capitalise on branding. “In future we would want
    publicity material on display at cinemas to be consistent with the
    content and style of the film. We are currently working on having
    stills from the film and photographs of the actors on our public
    information – so that link from the film is obvious,” say
  • If you’re going to do this properly be prepared to spend money.
    “It’s not going to be made for a few hundred quid. But, that said,
    consider how much is often spent on other forms of advertising and
    marketing,” says Barnes-Clay.
  • Another spin-off is that the slick production helps to reflect
    well on the council. “An innovative project like this, which has
    been received well by the media, can only help to proactively raise
    the image of social services,” adds Barnes-Clay.


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