There is little doubt that NHS Blood & Transplant has a difficult job, with a significant lack of child organ donors, resulting in children and their families waiting for a life-saving donation that tragically sometimes does not come.
In 2021/22, just 52% of families who were approached about organ donation gave consent for their child’s organs to be donated. This represented just 40 organ donors under the age of 18. However, in cases where a child was already registered on the NHS Organ Donation Register, no family refused donation.
Now in a bid to raise vital awareness of the need for more child organ donors, Wunderman Thompson UK and NHS Blood & Transplant are launching a new campaign that will see the children transformed into handmade dolls placed in waiting rooms across the country. The dolls will launch a campaign to promote conversation around paediatric organ donation and encourage more parents to consider adding their child to the register.
The campaign, ‘Waiting to Live’, launches this week with dolls representing children on the waiting list appearing across the country, including in waiting rooms for major transplant hubs like Great Ormond Street Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Evalina Children’s Hospital, among others.
With the backing of hospitals across the country, more than 230 dolls have been handmade by over 140 makers. Many of the dolls are based on real children on the waiting list. For instance, Ralph’s doll wears his favourite lightning bolt t-shirt and holds a car; Ava’s doll wears a bear suit for her love of bears whilst Pablo’s doll is dressed in a karate outfit in reference to his favourite hobby.
Each doll will be wearing a badge with QR codes that links through to a dedicated campaign site, built by the Wunderman Thompson team, which allows people to listen to the stories of children who are waiting and sign their own children up for the NHS Organ Donor Register.
‘Waiting to Live’ builds on the ‘Consider This’ campaign launched in September, which used radio and press to make a powerful appeal on behalf of the parents of three-year-old Ralph, who is waiting for a multi-organ transplant. Katie, Ralph’s mother is an employee at Wunderman Thompson.
In the TV spot, a doll, representing Ralph, is shown sat alone in a waiting room while people pass by him. Other dolls are then shown sitting alone in other waiting rooms, while the ad reads ‘he is not alone’. We then return to Ralph, with the message: ‘You can help end the wait. Register yourself and your child as donors’. The soundtrack for the campaign was written and recorded exclusively by Chloe Bruce-Gardyne.
The campaign will also run across cinema and out-of-home and will be supported by social and influencer activity.
Angie Scales, lead nurse for Paediatric Organ Donation at NHS Blood & Transplant, said: “For many children on the transplant waiting list, their only hope is the parent of another child saying ‘yes’ to organ donation at a time of immense sadness and personal grief. Yet families tell us that agreeing to organ donation can also be a source of great comfort and pride.
“By encouraging more young people and their families to confirm their support for organ donation on the NHS Organ Donor Register, we hope to be able to save more lives of children, both today and in the future.”
Laura Saraiva and Charli Plant, creative leads behind the campaign at Wunderman Thompson UK, added: “This has been one of the most emotionally challenging but most rewarding campaigns we have ever worked on. Children on the transplant list wait for months, sometimes years, but this isn’t something that many people are aware of.
“We saw an opportunity to shine a light on the children waiting for an organ transplant in a place where they do a lot of that waiting. We’ve been blown away by people’s generosity in helping to bring this to life, especially when it came to creating the hundreds of dolls.
“Working with the families was heart-breaking at times, we can’t even imagine what they must be going through, but we hope this campaign does their stories justice, raises awareness and, crucially, encourages more parents to consider adding their children to the NHS Organ Donor Register.”
So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office?
Is there anything more heartbreaking than a sick child, who can only get better if another child dies? And that, dear readers, sums up the age-old problem that NHS Blood & Transplant faces.
Of course, it must be tempting to pull at the heart-strings by showing kids suffering, but we believe this campaign is even more effective and can only hope it will succeed in getting more people on the NHS Organ Donation Register.
These are difficult conversations but ultimately this is a great cause.
Decision Marketing Adometer: A “a time to sign up” 10 out of 10