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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!

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