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Wooaaaaaoooohhh, me chip pan’s on fire! 

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Wooaaaaaoooohhh, me chip pan’s on fire! 

Every year we’re blown away by the resourcefulness, high energy and colossal creativity that we see from organisations entering the Comms2Point0 UnAwards.

The most recent set of corkers was no exception and one incredibly successful campaign stood out in particular. You will not fail to be impressed by what this winning entry achieved……

We spoke to Alex Mills, Corporate Communications Manager at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, winners of the creative comms entry for their ambitious and outstanding ‘Operation Chip Pan’ campaign.

Tell us about your campaign

Fire services have delivered public safety campaigns on the issues of kitchen fires and chip pans for decades, to varying degrees of success.

But often, those campaigns have tended to rely on negative messaging – emphasising the consequences and dangers of fire, but failing to reach target audiences in a way which engages them or is likely to change their behaviour.

Analysis of fire service incidents and MOSAIC audience types showed that victims of house fires tend to be aged over 45, male and less likely to respond to traditional, ‘top down’ public service messaging. We knew therefore that we needed a creative approach which would make a real impact with exceptional cut-through at a crowded time of year.

What was the specific objective?

To reduce accidental house fires by 5 per cent in South Yorkshire in December 2016, compared with the average for the same month in the previous 3 years.

This links to our organisation’s mission, “Working for a safer South Yorkshire” and one of our strategic objectives, which is to reduce house fires and fire related deaths and injuries.

What did you do?

We contacted a popular local parody band, Everly Pregnant Brothers who had previously recorded ‘Chip Pan’- a cover version of the Kings of Leon’s ‘Sex on Fire’. The band agreed to record a version of the song with red watch firefighters at Central fire station, Sheffield.

The resulting music video became the hook for our campaign and from this the idea of launching a bid for the Christmas number one spot was born.


We aimed high. Very high

To be considered as genuine contenders for Christmas number one, and therefore generate as much publicity for the campaign and our safety messages as possible, we knew that we had to build credibility. We did this by gaining the support of national bookmakers – who at one point installed us as 25-1 shots, above rivals Cliff Richard, The Pogues and Adele. We also sought and won endorsement by the Official Chart Company and the NME and mobilised the support of local celebrities and leaders to back our campaign.

We used entertainment, humour and emotion

Our online activity focused on developing genuinely engaging content which we knew would be widely shared, helping us to spread our message beyond our established online audiences. This included a heavy focus on developing our own memes and video content, from a mannequin challenge and the backing of South Yorkshire’s oldest serving firefighter, to a video plea from the young daughter of one of our firefighters – each of which clocked up tens of thousands of online views.

We spread the message worldwide

This combination of credibility and viral digital content in support of our video sparked the interest of the traditional media, resulting in 72 pieces of local, national and international media coverage including articles in each of the most read national newspapers (The Sun, Daily Mirror, Mail Online).

The video was shown on Channel 4’s The Last Leg, BBC Breakfast and BBC Look North and also won major backing from South Yorkshire’s main, daily newspaper The Star.

The story was even covered as far afield as New Zealand!

We involved multiple stakeholders, inside and out

Engaging our own staff in our public engagement work can sometimes be tricky – but they got behind this campaign in a big way. We also took care to heavily involve other stakeholders in all our activity – especially the band, the benefitting charities and the wider fire sector.

Taking this approach gave the campaign multiple layers beyond our core safety message – with secondary messages around emergency services workers on duty over Christmas and the work the fire service does with older and vulnerable people in our communities reaching an estimated 10 million people.

Most importantly though, we proved that doing something creative, engaging and fun needn’t be just a gimmick – we tied it back to our original aim and our organisation’s purpose, which is to make people safer.

What was the outcome?

The campaign generated an 18% reduction in house fires in December 2016, compared to an average of 58 for the previous three years. The cost was just £70, which paid for the t-shirts that staff and members of the public were encouraged to wear.

The average ‘cost to society’ of an accidental house fire in Yorkshire is estimated to be £46,000. So, based on the reduction in fires attributable to this campaign, it’s estimated to have generated a £400,000 or 16,000% return on marketing investment.

It would have been the easiest thing in the world to do a straightforward, top down fire safety campaign – but turning our preconceptions upside down and starting from scratch with a super creative approach yielded brilliant results.

From the video itself, to the way we used creative shareable content, sought advocacy from social media influencers and targeted new media like BuzzFeed and Mashable to extend our reach, creativity was at the heart of everything we did.

Thank you for sharing your story, Alex and well done to all involved!

We love this refreshing approach you’ve taken to tackle a challenging issue, shunning the usual scare tactics and opting for creativity, entertainment and humour instead. We’re looking forward to seeing more from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue in 2018!

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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