Agency: Author: Jane Almey

NSPCC: FULL STOP Campaign: Together We Will
End Cruelty to Children


How do you set cultural change in motion?

How do you make people take notice of you when all they really want to do is look the other way? How do you make them understand your issue with greater clarity and depth than ever before? And how do you make people truly want to help in a cause rather than just pay someone else to deal with the problem?

Saatchi & Saatchi have had the NSPCC account for 14 years. This is an ongoing relationship and until recently the strategy we adopted to raise public awareness focused primarily on showing the effects of child abuse. The public donated money so that the NSPCC would make the issue go away. That was the deal between the public and the NSPCC.

In 1998 a decision was taken to change the strategic approach to this relationship. The NSPCC and the public would be partners for cultural change.

To achieve this, in 1999 the NSPCC launched the FULL STOP campaign. The objective of this ongoing campaign is, To make cruelty to children the cause of the millennium. Thus, we were faced with a new strategic imperative. We had to engage the public in a different way. The advertising had to draw people in, not distance them.

This paper will demonstrate how we tackled this difficult issue by redefining the traditional rules of engagement.

People do not want to look. So we did not make them. We understood why they did not want to look and then found a different and more effective way to get under their skin. We found an insight into our target audience that enabled us to get the point across.

Our FULL STOP advertising in 1999 talked to the public in a different way. It primed them to take joint responsibility with the NSPCC for this massive social issue, in order to effect cultural change.


As the NSPCC is a charity, the means by which success is measured is not the same as for an FMCG or commercial company. However, the paper will illustrate the success and impact of the FULL STOP launch advertising, utilising both hard and soft measures relating to the advertising specifically campaign and issue awareness, donations, and its impact within the organisation.

This paper deals with the attitudes and behaviours of the general public. When discussing the issues of child cruelty, it is accepted that there are some individuals who are outside the remit of the campaign. The campaign is not designed to address the issues of child abusers. Dealing with the issues of this section of society is, of course, vitally important, but not the main focus for the FULL STOP campaign.


This week, as you are reading this paper:

  • 12 children will die following cruelty
  • 2000 children will have a harmful sexual experience
  • 3000 children will be physically abused
  • 600 children will be added to the child protection register.

Source: NSPCC

But it is almost impossible to determine the full extent of child abuse. Most victims suffer in silence: fear of the loss of their parent or carer, if they are the abuser, often prevents them from telling others. Thus official statistics show only the tip of the iceberg. They have to be supplemented by information from research and the voices of children and adults.

Dads beating me with his belt it leaves bruises and marks my sisters get beaten too my Mum knows, but she doesnt stop it I get on well with Dad, other than the beatings.
Daddys in bed with me and R He does a lady and man kiss. Hes got no clothes on. I dont like it. I told Mummy, but she said Daddy doesnt.
I cant remember a day of my childhood when I wasnt abused. It wasnt until I reached secondary school that I realised that this sort of thing doesnt happen to everybody.

Source: Quotes from abused children taken from NSPCC Vision for Children Document, 1998

Dealing with the effects of child cruelty is a constant expense

At the moment, child abuse costs this country 1 billion a year (source: Institute of Public Finance). Until now this money has been spent overwhelmingly on the effects of abuse. The NSPCCs approach had been to encourage the public to donate money so that the organisation alone could deal with the issue.

As long as the focus is only dealing with the effects, this expense will not decrease. It will be an expensive problem and a constant one. Resources would be much more effectively used if they were channelled into prevention. By preventing child cruelty it is possible that it may become a thing of the past.

Prevention is better than cure making child cruelty our problem

Recognising this, the NSPCCs communication objective as the century drew to a close was for cruelty to children to be the cause of the millennium and for a move towards prevention. Focus on prevention is a dramatic change and is only possible with public support both emotional and financial. The public had to feel that it is no longer a case of Me giving my money, to solve your problem. The problem had to become our problem if anything was to change.

Claimed financial support from the public was diminishing

Donations to the NSPCC have increased over time, despite an everincreasing array of charities, with more and more organisations competing for the same amount of money and so potentially a smaller share for each.

The NSPCC conducts an Annual Donor Survey through NOP. The study explores public attitudes to donating and how it changes year on year. Considering public perceptions of their propensity to donate to certain charities is indicative of their commitment. From 1996 to 1998 the public were gradually claiming to have donated less to the NSPCC (Figure 1).

The downward trend in public perceptions of their contributions caused concern. A feeling of public commitment was vital if they were going to be galvanised into taking part in the prevention of child cruelty.


In 1998 the nspcc launched the full stop campaign. The campaigns objective was to create a society where all children are loved, valued and able to fulfil their potential. And core to the FULL STOP campaign is the NSPCCs mission:

To end cruelty to children within a generation by the time the babies born in the year 2000 become parents themselves.

Five Vision Programmes were developed to address the problem of child cruelty from all angles. These are targeted solutions to tackle the factors that cause abuse:

    1. Protecting the child
    2. The child in the family
    3. The child in school
    4. The child in the community
    5. The child in society.

These are initiatives that have been designed to lead to cultural change. They are based on joint responsibility. They are meaningless without public support.

The NSPCC still needed to maintain the financial support of the public though. The success of the campaign had to be judged on its ability to foster support, without jeopardising donations. The target to make FULL STOP happen was five times the income of 1997!

Cultural change does not happen overnight

There are a number of identifiable stages that must be achieved for the best chance of success (Figure 2). This is a linear process: each stage has to be accomplished before it is possible to move up to the next.


The task for advertising

We were at the first stage. We had to kickstart this process. The communication objectives were:

    • To raise awareness and understanding of child cruelty
    • To encourage the public to see child cruelty as a joint responsibility not just the NSPCCs job
    • To continue to raise funds to support the introduction and running of the FULL STOP campaign
    • To prime the public for next steps i.e. to personally identify with the issue and to move to change child cruelty
    • Ultimately to take the public through the first step towards effecting real cultural change.
  • To raise awareness and understanding of child cruelty
  • To encourage the public to see child cruelty as a joint responsibility not just the NSPCCs job
  • To continue to raise funds to support the introduction and running of the FULL STOP campaign
  • To prime the public for next steps i.e. to personally identify with the issue and to move to change child cruelty
  • Ultimately to take the public through the first step towards effecting real cultural change.

First we had to understand public attitude

Given the extremely personal and emotive nature of the subject, we knew qualitative research was the best way of gaining deeper understanding. However, the effects were measured by statistically robust means.

In a first stage of research three areas of learning were key in leading us to our insight, namely, public perceptions of:

    • The scale of the problem
    • The type of people who are involved in child cruelty
    • What different types of child cruelty there are.

All those interviewed agreed that cruelty to children is unacceptable. In addition, three areas of public attitude were highlighted.

1. Inertia/impotence

This is typified by a feeling that cruelty to children has always existed and will (therefore) always exist:

Theres nothing we can do about it.

2. Cynicism/lack of involvement

There is a refusal to feel directly concerned. A feeling of exclusion from both the problem (they do not want to know) and the solution (they do not know what can be done). There is also a cynicism towards the idea of ending cruelty to children:

Its nothing to do with me. I dont do that to my kids.
They need to keep it [advertising/communication] simple so that people who do it understand. Were not so important.
Ending child abuse? Nice idea, but how realistic is it really?

3. Limited understanding of the problem and its solutions

People feel unclear about the scope and the importance of cruelty. Even for the most motivated there is a lack of concrete direction. People may be happy to give money, but think it is all they can do.

Id like to help, but what can I do?

In further research we explored these learnings in more detail. We needed to know what was beneath peoples responses. Why did they react in the way they did?

We learned that where there is awareness, people tend to believe that the problem is limited to a small number of individuals who either do not know better, or who live in difficult circumstances. In other words, it is not people like them, it is other people.

Its like the lottery. I know someone has won it, but I dont know them. And its the same with child abuse.

Source: Green Light Research, April 1998

It also became clear that people do not have a spontaneous awareness of the breadth of the issue. The official definitions of child cruelty include four categories:

    • Physical abuse
    • Sexual abuse
    • Emotional abuse
    • Neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect

Whilst spontaneous awareness of the breadth of the problem might not have been high, the way in which people talked about abuse (when prompted with the different types) was almost more important than awareness levels. People became angry and fired up: an enormous amount of energy was evident.

But despite this energy, the way they discussed the subject consistently demonstrated that they were distancing themselves in whatever way they could.

People think its the sort of thing that happens in tower blocks. Not here.

Source: Green Light Research, 1998

That people want to distance themselves is understandable. This is an appalling issue. But how do people speak so passionately and angrily and then put it out of their minds? Why?

We do not have space in our minds for this behaviour

At its simplest level, cruelty to children is horrible. For an adult to use their position of relative power over a child in this way is unacceptable.

But at a deeper level, cruelty to children breaks one of the most fundamental moral codes that exist for us that human life is precious. And in the case of the lives of innocent children it makes no sense at all. When feelings are so powerful and uncomfortable, unsurprisingly people want to distance themselves from the images or thoughts surrounding the issue.

Awareness of this reaction has been one of the reasons why past NSPCC advertising has been so successful. One of the biggest, yet subconscious, reasons for the public to donate is to create a distance between them and such a horrific issue. This creates an internal dynamic for the way in which money is donated.

Im giving you this money. Now go away and you deal with it. Dont make me think about it

This point was clearly demonstrated in a research group conducted with mothers during creative development research. Participants took part in a brand corridor projective exercise. In this exercise, the group imagined they were walking down a corridor with doors on either side. On the doors were the names of childrens charities Children in Need, Childline and so on. Participants were asked to imagine they were going into each room and to describe what it was like in there. All were able to describe the experience in each room. But one woman became very uncomfortable about going into the NSPCC room:

I dont want to go into the room. Ill just put a fiver under the door. I dont want to look.

Source: 25 to 35yearold mum, Saatchi & Saatchi research, 1998

This was typical of many responses in the groups and gave us the key to how to approach the whole issue of child cruelty. People want to remain distant from it. Its your problem. The need to give to mitigate guilt is an almost involuntary behavioural reflex. People cannot help but feel and behave in this way.


The NSPCC protects children from physical violence

This proposition shows how, before the FULL STOP campaign, advertising colluded with the public. The deal was, the NSPCC dealt with the problem. The public showed their support via donations. This is demonstrated in the 1997 Excuses poster campaign (Figure 3). The objective of this campaign was to raise awareness. The creative idea was to show how people might try to hide cruelty through excuses.

The advertising created was completely on brief. Allowing the NSPCC to deal with the issue was a comfortable way of dealing with the issue for everyone. And it was successful in its objective of raising funds for the NSPCC to enable them to do their job. The campaign was rerun in 1998.

The NSPCC was a buffer zone for the public

This was the deal. It allowed people to keep their distance. A donation when prompted, by advertising or direct mail, would keep the problem away from you for a while.

Now we had to help people own the issue. The NSPCC would still lead the way, but the public would play a part. The NSPCC and the public would now be partners for positive cultural change (Figure 4).


We needed an intrusive medium: TV

Where the agenda was to stop people looking away from the issue, we chose TV advertising as our primary medium, supported by posters. TV is much harder to ignore or walk away from than posters alone. It is an intrusive medium. It lives in peoples homes. Homes are where abuse takes place. Furthermore, TV is still perhaps the most impactful public medium, being widely shared and discussed. Where there is an everexpanding range of TV channels, commercials are becoming the most shared and discussed moving image. We needed people to talk about this advertising.

The difference in approach is apparent in the proposition

The creative brief for Stage One FULL STOP advertising had tough objectives. The proposition for the FULL STOP launch advertising is: Together we will end cruelty to children.

There were eight important requirements of the advertising:

    1. It had to talk directly and clearly to people who are desperately trying to distance themselves from the issue.
    2. Advertising had to communicate with people within a range of different yet associated attitudes. It had to overcome three types of attitudinal barriers identified in research:
    • Inertia/impotence
    • Cynicism/lack of involvement
    • Limited understanding of the problem and its solutions.
3. It had to address the publics limited understanding of the problem and its solutions.
4. The message had to be as simple and memorable as previous public education campaigns, for example Clunk click every trip.
5. The advertising had to make people do what they could to contribute to the cause: donate money, discuss it with people, phone the NSPCC to see what else they could do, sign the pledge, wear the FULL STOP badge.
6. It had to make people aware that the NSPCC was launching the biggest ever initiative against child cruelty.
7. People had to be made aware that this can only be successful if everyone is involved, and if we are all committed to the goal.
8. The NSPCCs experience and determination must be seen as making it the most authoritative organisation to lead such an ambitious project.

Redefining the rules of engagement

The route chosen is based on an intensely powerful vehicle, comprising two shared elements:

    • Childhood icons
    • Covered eyes

In the film no image of cruelty is actually shown. Rather, it is suggested. We learned that this is by far the most powerful way of broaching the subject of child cruelty.

People feel intensely uncomfortable with child cruelty and as a result look for any possible way of distancing themselves. The moment the viewer can think Thats not me, Thats about people in rundown council properties, I wouldnt do that or any other getout route they stop paying attention. The communication is lost and nothing changes. We had to find a route with irresistible entry points and as few if any getout routes as possible.

Not showing the images of child cruelty, but suggesting them, means everyone creates their own version of what is going on, a version which has meaning for them. A range of aural prompts were given to ensure people (a) knew what was being suggested, and (b) could not interpret cruelty as being an issue of a stereotyped section of society.

The viewers connection is a way in created from their own internal data bank of images. It might be an image from a film, something they have seen or heard happening, a reminder of their own experiences of abuse, or even how close they may have come to behaving this way. In this way child cruelty could not be discounted or ignored. In other words, not showing abuse lets people fill in the blanks more vividly.

If people wont look, dont make them

The Cant Look launch film comprised five vignettes, focusing on different types of child cruelty, each using a childhood icon. The icons chosen were a teddy bear, Action Man, Rupert Bear, The Spice Girls and the footballer, Alan Shearer. All had their eyes covered as a soundtrack or suggestion of abuse is heard.

There are a number of reasons why the use of these childhood icons is so apposite:

    • These figures are all, in their own way, innocent. They come to symbolise the innocence of childhood.
    • The presence of such innocent elements of a childs world in situations of cruelty heightens the anger and disgust of the viewer. They jar.
We knew that people do not have a space in their minds for child cruelty. But they do have a very special and positive place for such childhood icons. They symbolise important childhood lifestages and memories:
    • Your first teddy bear
    • A special childhood mug featuring a favourite childhood character, like Rupert Bear
    • Rough, tough action games and fantasies symbolised by Action Man
    • Our transition into the teenage world symbolised by the Spice Girls
    • The world of heroes and dreams symbolised by footballer Alan Shearer
These icons are steeped in the innocence and optimism of childhood and the fact that even they cannot look they have to cover their eyes underlines the tragedy and unacceptability of child cruelty.
    • The figures work in their own right, but by covering their eyes they also become symbolic of us covering our eyes to child cruelty and so provide a poignant and meaningful entry point to the whole world of child cruelty. There is no way out.
    • They have meaning for all different ages of child, all generations and both sexes.

Thus, the creative fulcrum of the advertising is immensely powerful. People watch the films and are attracted to and pay attention to images that are familiar and close. They see familiar characters covering their eyes because they cannot look. They are made aware of child cruelty with more clarity than ever before. The childhood icons become visual mnemonics for both whatever image of child cruelty the viewer has been imagining and public behaviour:

    • The fact that child cruelty exists
    • It is happening
    • It is not just the reality of a few unfortunate people
    • And it is hard to look.

This connection raised the deep and intense public awareness that was essential for the FULL STOP launch Stage One of the path towards cultural change.


1.0 Outstanding and detailed public awareness: high awareness of the launch advertising both spontaneous and prompted were measured.

1.1 Of all the charities mentioned that advertised during this period, the NSPCC received one of the largest jumps in levels of awareness an increase of some 33% (Figure 4). Only Comic Relief outperformed the campaign in aware ness terms, but this shift was on a relatively low level of initial awareness. Moreover, the Comic Relief charity receives enormous amounts of free media exposure from the BBC.

1.2 Clearly the campaign was having an impact in terms of spreading the word. However, it was also effective in terms of talking to a key target audience younger age groups (Figure 5). If this is going to be the Cause of the Millennium, then the energy and commitment of young people are vital.

This awareness data was also supported by anecdotal information about calls to the NSPCC Helpline. Amongst those people calling were a high number of younger people calling to help the organisation. This shows that the imagination of those who are not yet parents has been captured. They are willing to contribute their time and energy to this cause. This bodes well for the future of the organisation. In effect, the next generation of parents are already showing a dedication to future parenting and are willing to put this into action by volunteering.

1.3 As this is an emotive issue, any campaign about child cruelty would be impactful. However, this was the most effective NSPCC awareness campaign in the last four years (Figure 6).

1.4 The campaign worked hard across the whole age spectrum of society. People were definitely listening. The campaign was effective in raising the importance of the issue in the minds of a hitherto denying public (Figure7).

2. There was a dramatic upturn in donation penetration. The 1999 Annual Donor Survey demonstrated that the publics perception of their own propensity to give to the NSPCC had increased. In other words the campaign was conditioning more of the public to give. Figure 8 shows that donor penetration had increased, reversing its decline almost to its 1996 level post the launch advertising.

3. The campaign became a cause célèbre in the media. Media reactions to the advertising indicated how seriously the campaign is being taken. This, in itself, is one of the foundations of cultural change and an amplifier of the advertising.

The FULL STOP advertising featured in 71 television programmes 53 of these nationally. This amounts to nearly six episodes of EastEnders

It featured in 230 radio shows it could have kept Talk Radio going from 6am to 7.30pm without a break

There were more than 2000 articles and 500 pictures in newspapers and magazines. The amount of print coverage, in terms of column inches, would stretch around the inside lane of an Olympic stadium running track.

4. There was a 300% increase in people calling the NSPCC Helpline compared with pre the FULL STOP advertising.

5. The campaign motivated NSPCC staff. National NSPCC staff were full of praise:

All respondents responded positively to the question, Has the 'Cant Look' advertising had a motivating effect on the organisation internally?

87% of respondents answered Yes to the question, Do you feel that the public has a better understanding of all the different types of abuse that the NSPCC deals with since the Cant Look advertising?

There were many positive comments about the advertising and its effects:

It provided visual images which stay with people beyond the first viewing. Above all, it has brought the issue of child abuse into the language of everybody, using symbols with which everyone can identify, whatever their personal experiences of abuse.

It also had a very positive effect in terms of making the people who work for the organisation feel empowered:

So many people saw it and read it. It felt good working for an organisation in the news so much.

I was very proud to be associated with what has been recognised as a very successful and moving campaign.

Source: NSPCC Staff

6. An unexpected benefit: making it easier for the abused to talk. Discussions with staff working at the NSPCC Projects uncovered a further unexpected benefit. The ads had been used spontaneously by those victims being helped as a way of beginning difficult discussions about their own abuse:

The campaign started just before we started running a group with children who had witnessed domestic violence and a number of children had seen the campaign although Iknow it was after the 9 oclock watershed. Certainly some of them were moved by those advertisements the fact that whats going on in their house has to be a secret.

Source: Interview with NSPCC Project Worker


7. There was outstanding awareness of the campaign when compared with bigspending FMCG brands (Figure 9).



In addition to the Cant Look film we created advertising to support the green FULL STOP badge. The purpose of the badge is that people should wear it to demonstrate their positive position as far as child cruelty is concerned. Over time it is intended that the badge will be worn and recognised in the same way that the red AIDS ribbon is now.

In 1999 the badges were advertised on TV in 10second films using wellknown celebrities. This was intended to help create a public perception of the FULL STOP cause as being big and meaningful. It also provided one of the outlets for public action post seeing the Cant Look advertising.

The campaign was supported by HRH the Duke of York, who agreed to sponsor the campaign. His sponsorship was covered in Hello! magazine and he is still usually seen wearing his green FULL STOP badge.

Other wellknown people have also been spotted wearing the badge, for example Bill Gates, Alan Shearer and the cast of Casualty. This not only legitimises the cause and the badge as a symbol of the cause; highly visible people like this also act as an ongoing reminder of the FULL STOP cause.

Six hundred thousand people signed and returned the pledge. The NSPCC pledge was sent to 23 million homes across England. This asked people to demonstrate their commitment to the FULL STOP cause by signing the pledge.

Moreover, the majority of the 600,000 who signed and returned the pledge went on to become active fundraisers or campaigners. In other words for a relatively modest budget the campaign had garnered a real response.


In summary the FULL STOP advertising campaign was successful because it discovered and understood that, despite being concerned, people find it hard to become involved with this issue and so can tend to distance themselves. By finding the way to let them understand the issue in more detail than ever before, we created advertising with dramatic results.

    1. Outstanding public awareness: 33% increase in spontaneous awareness; almost twothirds of population claimed to have seen the advertising
    2. A dramatic upturn in peoples perceptions of their propensity to donate from 31% to 39%
    3. Outstanding media coverage demonstrating the beginning of social debate:
    • featuring in 71 TV programmes (53 of these national)
    • radio coverage to keep Talk Radio on air from 6.00am to 7.30pm without a break
    • a quarter of a mile of print coverage
4. A 300% increase in the number of calls to the NSPCC Helpline compared with pre campaign
5. A positive response from national NSPCC staff
6. Extremely positive response from NSPCC staff working directly with victims and potential victims of abuse
7. Attainment of a comparable level of awareness to major FMCG brands
8. A show of public commitment via the FULL STOP pledge 600,000 signed and returned the pledge, the majority of whom have become active campaigners and fundraisers
9. A show of commitment from the public and wellknown figures via the green FULL STOP badge.




Source: NSPCC/NOP Annual Donor Survey, 1998














FIGURE 6: A very favourable comparison with previous NSPCC ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

Source: NSPCC/NOP Awareness Tracking




FIGURE 8: nspcc's decline in penetration switched to an incline in 1999

Source: NSPCC/NOP Annual Donor Survey