A fag with your child’s name on it
Photo of a child smoking created for a Cancer Research UK campaign to protect children through standardised tobacco packaging.

December 8, 2013


Cancer Research UK – the world's largest independent cancer research charity – knew that tobacco packaging is a form of marketing that attracts young people. Evidence from research showed that plain, standardised packaging helps make tobacco less appealing to young people, helping to prevent them from starting smoking.

The challenge

As part of Cancer Research UK’s campaign for standardised packaging for all tobacco products, AMV created a shocking new film ‘The World Back Home’ aimed at reigniting national awareness, demonstrating the mass public support and putting pressure on the Government to introduce standard packs as soon as possible in the UK.

The national and regional press and PR teams and social media team needed to secure media coverage, shares and views around the launch of the film video in order to create a buzz around the charity’s standardised packaging lobbying. The campaign was targeted at encouraging both smokers and non-smokers among the general public to support and was about protecting children and not about stigmatising or attacking smokers.

The strategy

The national and regional PR teams used various tactics to gain as much attention as possible for the campaign:

  • We issued a hard news story alongside launch of the AMV film and details of amendment to the Children and Families Bill. The news story was based on the new research published in the European Journal of Public Health, which showed that teenagers said they were most attracted to slim and super slim cigarettes. This hard news story was pitched to health and policy journalists alongside the video and lung cancer case studies
  • To maximise our chances of pick up, we offered targeted media exclusive content, case studies and independent comment from third party experts (including offering exclusive previews of the film to selected media titles)
  • We also targeted consumer, lifestyle and trade media with the AMV film and related content
  • The press release was tailored and distributed to relevant trade media (including third sector and marketing press)
  • We made the most of our celebrity ambassador, actress Lucy Briers, who took part in media interviews in support of the campaign
  • We pitched lung cancer case study and Ambassador stories to coincide with the launch of the film
  • We regionalised the national research story around slim line cigarettes to generate widespread coverage in regional titles across the country
  • This story was accompanied by localised lung cancer incidence & mortality stats and the children’s smoking prevalence figures as well as relevant local case studies
  • The regional team also ran a special ‘back to school’ photo story to tie in with the start of the school year, Policy & Campaign’s Action week and the party conferences. The photos used the road safety lollipop symbol to highlight how many children start smoking each day. The images were individually tailored with the regional smoking prevalence figures and sent out a powerful message that jarred with the idea of school children and the innocence of starting school and kept the Plain Packaging campaign very much in the public consciousness.  Supporters were
  • encouraged email the Prime Minister or join the debate on Twitter
  • The team also activated all CRUK social media channels to raise as much awareness as possible using the hashtag #packetracket.
  • Tactics included promoted tweets, organic shares of press coverage, providing assets to encourage shares and celebrity support (including shares from Jake Humphrey, Sara
  • Cox, Duncan Bannatyne and more)
  • A blogger pack was also created which included digital images of cigarette packs with the top ten boys’ and girls’ names in the UK printed on them. We sent these assets to bloggers and promoted via our social channels with the message: “There’s a pack with your child’s name on it. End tobacco marketing now”.

The results

  • Overall, we reached 35 per cent of UK adults (17 million) through placement and media coverage of the AMV film, ‘The World Back Home’.
  • A key highlight was securing unpaid for coverage of the film on MSN, which resulted in over 25,000 views through this page alone.
  • Notable campaign highlights included The Daily Telegraph online and a number of broadcast pieces on the BBC.
  • 24 per cent of adults in the UK (11 million) were exposed to the ‘Back to School’ campaign Our hashtag #packetracket trended in the UK and hundreds of people and organisations, such as Mumsnet, got on board to call for legislation to be introduced. We also received a retweet about the campaign from the BBC’s Robert Peston.
  • The social media campaign also managed to gain roughly 700 followers meaning future messaging will reach those people directly
  • While this was just one activation as part of a long campaign from Cancer Research UK, standardised packaging came into force in the UK in 2015.

Melissa was Senior PR Officer at Cancer Research UK from 2012 to 2014.

Case studies

Read about the campaigns Melissa has worked on to help for-purpose organisations meet their PR & communications goals.

Read more case studies...

Cancer Research UK round logo

“Mel is a fantastic PR. She joined my team and hit the ground running straight away, excelling in securing coverage, project management and client relations. She also offers sound advice on all things PR."

Kim Ireland
Former PR manager, Cancer Research UK

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