NHS launches first ever augmented reality billboard campaign to show power of blood donations

In a bid to shake off the stigma that prevents many Brits from donating blood, NHS Blood and Transplant has today (18 May) launched an innovative campaign that allows donators to virtually fill up a bag of blood on major ad screens in both Birmingham and London.

NHS volunteers will give members of the public an iPhone, which uses augmented reality to replicate the process of a needle going into their flesh when they hover the smartphone over a sticker that is placed where an injection would usually occur.

As the iPhone virtually takes their blood over a 20-second period, the ad screen’s empty blood bag also fills up and a message is displayed thanking the participant for “seeing the power of a blood donation”. The real-life patient on the screen also goes from looking unhealthy to healthy as the blood bag fills up, while participants will also be asked to register as donors.

The experience, created by agency 23red, will run on Ocean Outdoor’s Birmingham’s New Street screen for three days from today (18 May) and then on the Eat Street Screen at London’s for another three days from 20 May.

Read more: People who see an OOH campaign are 17% more likely to engage with the brand on their mobile

With the NHS needing 200,000 new donors every year, Nadine Eaton, head of national campaigns at NHS Blood and Transplant, hopes the new campaign can make a difference. It will have a particular focus on the young as well as those of African and South Asian descent.

According to Eaton, the majority of donors are still aged over 45 so the NHS needs to make an effort to convince the next generation to become long-term donors. The two ethnic groups are needed as both often carry rare blood types the NHS struggles to get hold of.

Eaton told Marketing Week: “It’s a new way of recruiting people as there’s still a big stigma around fears of needles or people not being aware that we sometimes struggle for donations. We hope by doing something experiential people will see how simple it is, how it can help the sick and learn not to take blood donations for granted.”


The two OOH events will be supported by social media activity while the NHS will change its ongoing marketing activity, to reflect the slogan “the power of a blood donation” in a bid to up the number of donors.

Over recent years, brands have become more creative with their outdoor advertising. Last March, Women’s Aid debuted an interactive billboard in Canary Wharf, which featured the image of a battered woman’s face and the tagline ‘Look at Me’.

The billboard worked by healing her bruises if a certain number of passers-by looked at the ad, raising awareness of domestic abuse in the process. Last Week, Women’s Aid won two Marketing Week Awards including ‘Best Use of a Small Budget’ as a result of the campaign.

Eaton admits the NHS was inspired by the Women’s Aid campaign and said the new blood donation variant proves the power of OOH advertising. Should the campaign be successful, the NHS will potentially run it nationwide.

She concluded: “OOH has been completely reignited by digital interactions and there are now more ways to catch people’s attention than ever before. There’s excitement back in OOH [for marketers] and we hope this new campaign communicates something that our leafleting or street volunteers cannot.

“We are on target to hit 200,000 donors for 2016 and we hope this can push us over the edge and help to ease some fears around needles in the process.”


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