The call to action can’t be a whisper

The anti-obesity initiative Change4Life is making waves again. The Department of Health (DH) has unveiled data from the Great Swapathon, which saw 5 million voucher books containing £50-worth of redeemable healthy lifestyle tokens distributed through News of the World, Asda and other channels.

There was a change in marketing strategy for Change4Life last year driven by the government spending review of its communications, alongside an embracing of the ’nudge’ theory to help effect behavioural change. The plan was to rely less on paid-for media and work closer with brands in creative ways to engage the public and drive a shift in attitudes.

When the government slashed marketing budgets many said that it created the perfect environment for a live experiment on measuring the value of paid-for media. Looks like the results are in. DH seems happy with the Swapathon redemption rate but the bigger picture shows there has been an 80% drop in the number of people joining Change4Life, alongside a 90% drop in people phoning the helpline and a fall by two-thirds of people visiting the website.

DH recognises the need for some push advertising and will resume using traditional media more than it has in recent months. Details have just been unveiled.

What this does seem to illustrate is the need for fully integrated campaigns to maintain brand awareness and deliver ROI. Companies have put themselves on the rack agonising if they should switch the majority of budget to social media, or experiential, or sales promotion. There’s no definitive answer, but taking a balanced view of all the media channels and how they can work together does seem a good starting point.

But don’t take my work for it. Do read our Roundtable feature in which marketers discuss earned, paid-for and free media and the ways they come to their decisions on campaign planning.

As a frivolous example of a successful big call to action and a resounding result, The Sun ran an ad campaign for its Lego voucher giveaway at the weekend. Come Monday and a trip to WH Smith to swap the voucher for a Lego kit, there were none to be found past 11.30 am. Admittedly, a model Black Pearl pirate ship may be more immediately appealing than a Change4Life clementine, but the mechanism worked. Let’s hope the public similarly understand and act on the new DH campaign, whether there’s an immediate tangible reward or not.


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