After 66 years of public information campaigns, the UK’s Central Office of Information closes today. I rather hoped that it’s defunct twitter account would start tweeting away classic works, but alas, no.
Often the media will report on COI’s work by showing some of the older TV ads. But there was a lot more to it than this.
I worked there from 2009-2011 and saw the tail end of a leader in complex behaviour change campaigns – quitting smoking, fighting obesity, and – through digital services – in making government more open and accessible.
Here’s a few of my favourites pieces of work from the last few years. It’s easy to market a product – it’s not easy to change behaviour for public good. These ads show some final products, which followed months, or years, of research and strategy.
NHS Stroke awareness. This is a modern classic – seems very old school, but does a great job. Simple, memorable. And saved lives.
Royal Marines – It’s a state of mind. Just one of loads of high quality ads for armed forces recruitment.
Talk to FRANK (drugs helpline). Funny, daring, perfect for the target audience.
Dept of Health – Change4Life: Two of the TV ads are below, but they weren’t the main part of the campaign, which was a long education process involving web, direct mail and live events, based on extensive behaviour change research. It spawned a hundred other obesity prevention campaigns like Dance4life, swim4life, and so on. Could have been a valuable brand for the UK Govt.
Met Police – It doesn’t have to happen. Really smart – a choose your own adventure for YouTube – directed by the audience the Met wanted to reach.
Along with a couple of powerful films
And in conclusion..
Prevention was better (and cheaper) than a cure: Change4Life’s £50m campaign budget (later halved) sounded expensive, until you realised obesity will cost billions. So the campaign only had to affect part of the overall picture to save money. And people wanted to change. Hundreds of thousands responded to the campaign, ordering material and taking part in events.
And COI were getting pretty good at the complex econometric analysis that showed that this stuff worked. Comms offices around the world would come to COI to see how we did it.
But, hey, we can just get the private sector to deliver it at better value, right? Like erm, trains..and utilities…and now hospitals and universities…sob.
(And here’s some radio ads.)
(And here’s one random oldie that I like – no idea why it was made, especially in the Thatcher era, but it’s hilarious, and has a Michael Nyman soundtrack)
The official version of COI’s history is here.