Age UK on its tie-up with John Lewis and why Christmas is a key time to talk about loneliness

For Age UK the tie-up with John Lewis for its Christmas ad tied in perfectly with its campaign to raise awareness of the plight of those that might spend the festive season alone.

Age UK launched its ‘No one should have no one’ campaign back in January with the aim of raising awareness of the fact that many older people have no one to turn to. It estimates that more than 1 million older people haven’t spoken to a friend, relative or neighbour for at least a month.

The charity already had a “fairly low level” relationship with John Lewis. The retailer would donate a % of sales from merchandise to Age UK and donated money when a retired member of staff died.

So it was a surprise when the John Lewis marketing team got in touch about its Christmas campaign.

Marianne Hewitt, head of brand marketing at Age UK, told Marketing Week: “When they agreed their script and saw the message of loneliness in there they asked us if wanted to work with them. Obviously that is like Christmas when you’re a charity marketer. They shared their idea and we talked about whether there was something that we could do together.

“It is a nice way to make the most of the ad and our message of ‘no one should have no one’ ties in really well with their strapline ‘show someone they’re loved this Christmas’,” she explained.

Age UK has worked closely with John Lewis, holding weekly meetings as well as emails and phone calls on how to best integrate the charity partnership. As part of the John Lewis campaign, the retailer will be raising awareness of the work of the charity and asking people to donate, as well as giving a % of sales of merchandise.

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For Age UK the hope is there will be a big peak in donations and volunteers. Hewitt said there has already been a massive uplift in traffic and that is before the ad goes on TV.

The charity has also received a donation every two minutes, a level Hewitt called “unprecedented”. She said Age UK has pulled in more staff to work on its volunteering desk and will be looking to amplify the John Lewis message with its own campaign, which includes outdoor ads, direct response and social media.

“Obviously we want to raise as much money as possible. It is hard to estimate the response to the magic of a John Lewis ad,” she said.

Hewitt admitted Age UK has often struggled in the past to engage with supporters in part due to the cause. A lot of people don’t want to talk or think about getting old or the issue of ageism.

However she said the issue of loneliness has helped the charity engage with the public.

“Age and ageing can be quite tough, most people don’t want to talk about it. But with loneliness, it doesn’t matter if your are 18 or 45 people can identify with that and are slightly scared of it. They fear being older and on their own,” she said.

That particularly resonates at Christmas, Hewitt explained, when most people are organising parties and big family get-togethers.

“The thought of someone being on their own at that time of year is incredibly sad. It is not just any other day of the year. People on their own feel so much more alone over Christmas because they know there is so much festivity going on.”

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