Direct and digital marketing, Marketing, Media

Lessons learned from working with Animal Free Research UK

Georgie Wishart from Plant-Based Digital shares the lessons she learned whilst working for the charity Animal Free Research UK.

In early 2021, I pitched for an exciting opportunity with a charity very close to my heart – Animal Free Research UK. They were due to celebrate their organisation’s 51st anniversary on the 27 May, with the launch of a campaign and a brand new awareness day – the first ever World Animal Free Research Day.

Animal Free Research UK (formerly the Dr Hadwen Trust) is the UK’s leading medical research charity that funds and promotes the development of techniques to replace the use of animals in research. This includes funding and promoting techniques to replace the use of animals in biomedical research in diverse areas including cancer, neurological and genetic disorders, autoimmune and infectious diseases.

They were looking for a new video to share with new and existing supporters to inspire change and show what the future can look like if we can overcome the barriers preventing animal free research from being the gold standard of research. Check out the video here.

Getting from brief to a concept

As with any creative project, I first looked at the problems that AFR UK were looking to solve. I discovered that the UK public are highly aware that animals are used for research for biomedical purposes such as finding treatments for disease. And there is widespread acceptance of this as long as there is no alternative.

“Because I can accept it, doesn’t mean that I like it,” summed up the position for many.

This suggested that a lot of the UK public aren’t aware that there are alternatives, and that Animal Free Research are working towards these. However this work can’t be done without financial support. So the primary problem we were looking to solve was to educate the target audience that there are alternatives that they can get behind, AND they can help speed up this change through supporting Animal Free Research.

To best showcase Animal Free Research’s campaign, I suggested an inspirational narrative-driven film focusing on a human character. The audience would be able to relate to a human character, which would engage them more quickly, and then I proposed using animals throughout the film to pull the target audience in further. It was essential that the audience felt inspired to make a difference and had an emotional reaction to the film. As when this happens, the viewer better engages with the subject matter and absorbs the messages we are sharing.

A better world

With a better understanding of the problems we were trying to solve, how to best engage the target audience and the key messages for the campaign, I put together three creative concepts for the video. The concept that was selected for development followed the story of a woman who receives a cancer diagnosis in two different time periods.

“In the future we are working towards, we no longer have to be afraid of illnesses like cancer. We live in a golden age of science free from animal testing.”

In the future we imagine, the one without animal testing, this diagnosis is not scary anymore as we have managed to advance medical science with a new generation of animal free scientists. The woman lives alone but has a dog, a beagle, for company. The beagle plays an important part of the narrative and we would show the juxtaposition between the current world, and the future world, the one where she comes home to her beloved beagle, cancer free. The use of a beagle was essential as beagles are often used for animal testing in the UK and dogs are a very effective animal when getting an emotional reaction from an audience.

Storyboarding and production

As with any production, once we had developed the creative concept, we worked on a script and storyboard to lay out exactly how the finished film would look. This was particularly important from a brand perspective, as the client needed to be happy with the approach we were taking – both visually and aurally.

We had a short turnaround for production, and shot with a minimal cast and crew in North London (including Lacey the Beagle). The film was shot on a Fujifilm xPro2 camera with 23mm f/1.8 and 90mm f/2 lenses.

The finished product

The final film was shown across their digital channels and made a big impact as a part of the new awareness day. In post-production, we were able to add a beautiful voiceover from Dame Joanna Lumley and unique music created by composer, Lewis White.

About Georgie Wishart

After spending years working for charities, Georgie decided to branch out and offer her creative skills to as many organisations as she could. She’s passionate about fighting the climate crisis, improving animal welfare and human rights issues. Check out her website Plant Based Digital here. Georgie will be hosting a session at The Ultimate Guide to Marketing your Charity conference on strategies to grow your marketing list, learn more and register here.

This blog was originally published on the Plant-Based Digital website, check it out here.