Why fortune favours the bold when it comes to video

Duty of CareThe video content market is a noisy one: the charity video market is even noisier. When War Child approached us to pitch for its new HELP campaign, we knew that we had to do something different to stand out and get the message heard. The campaign aims to protect the needs of children in war, and we believed it required a bold approach that went beyond the stereotypical emotional charity videos, which are often forgettable and easy to ignore.

Although War Child helps children globally, the terror of the conflicts like Syria was in the news at the time of the pitch and it made us think about how the children in war-torn cities would cope in such an atrocious environment. We tried to put ourselves in their shoes and imagine for a minute what they must be experiencing as they try to survive amongst the carnage.

This led us to come up with the idea of subverting the first person shoot-em-up game genre by putting a helpless child in the place of a heavily-armed soldier. We named it “Duty of Care”, a nod to the hugely popular “Call of Duty”, to gain the advocacy of the online gaming community as War Child was especially keen on reaching a younger, more engaged audience and we felt that gamers were a good target.

Duty of Care is an example of how a modern, unconventional and potentially controversial approach can reap rewards for brands looking to make their message stand out. Tapping into the rich and highly shareable world of video games gave the campaign the best chance of maximising its social impact and engagement rates as well as reaching a new, more online audience.

War Child reviewed more than 15 pitches and chose Duty of Care because they felt it explained a very complex issue in the most innovative, compelling and relatable way. It was a brave decision to go with such a provocative and hard-hitting approach and it is testament to the team who commissioned the film. Their investment in the idea encouraged us to deliver a striking video that stayed true to the original concept. As an organisation, they were well aware of the risks inherent with adopting a previously untried format, but they felt it was crucial to be bold in order to be noticed and to get their message across.

The film was edited by the post-production unit at H&O and OgilvyOne: a coup for us as an agency due to their size and position in the industry. They wanted to take on the project partly because of the creative and partly because it was such an unusual approach for a charity to take. Pushing boundaries is a risky strategy but the film combined a strong premise with a considered script.

[Warning: Video contains graphic content]

The project results speak for themselves: so far there have been over 8,000 sign-ups to the HELP petition – 3,000 more than their target for the year-long campaign – and a total eyes-on reach of more than 5 million since its launch in July 2015.

By adopting an innovative approach aimed specifically at a younger audience, the campaign was able to tap into an entirely new target demographic, who as a result are more aware of the amazing work that the charity is doing to help children in war. Approaching gamers during the seeding phase was a must as their hobby is online and online is where content gets shared.

The feedback we received from War Child best sums up the video’s success. The campaign achieved what we set out to do: portraying a highly emotive and disturbing situation that reflects reality, not fiction, with great sympathy and sensitivity. This not only enabled War Child to tap into an entirely new audience but also garnered them significant positive critical feedback in the process.

Blog post written by Daniel Clarke and Guy Davidson, creative Directors of creative agency TOAD London.

“Duty of Care” was conceived by Daniel Clarke and Guy Davidson. The film was directed by Daniel Luchessi and edited by Elliott Windsor and his team at H&O and OgilvyOne.