Age UK tackled the issue of loneliness


Key Points

  • Age UK wanted to recruit volunteers for their Call In Time service
  • They opted to focus on one single story and create a big impact with a 3 minute launch spot
  • As a result, they received 33,000 volunteer enquiries in just 4 weeks

The Challenge

Age UK is the country’s largest charity, dedicated to helping everyone make the most out of later life. They provide services and support at a national and local level to inspire, enable and support older people. In 2016, they were launching a new campaign at a very busy time of year, December. Their budget was a lot less than other charities (3% share of voice) so they knew they needed to do something a bit different to stand out.

The main objective of the campaign was to recruit volunteers to Age UK’s ‘Call In Time’ service, where people befriend a lonely or isolated elderly person and call them for a half an hour chat every week.

Age UK tasked their media agency, Manning Gottlieb OMD to think differently about the solution. Their insight came from a quote by Joseph Stalin “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic”. They decided to reject the traditional charity approach of focussing on the scale of the issue and use TV and the power of one story to move the nation.

The TV Solution

MGOMD worked with Drum to create a film which brought to life the story of one person’s loneliness. The film focussed on Roy, aged 83, who has found that the Call in Time service has made a real difference to his life since his wife died. Roy’s individual story, portrayed by James Bolam, made the plight of the one million lonely people in the UK more personal and so more likely to instigate action. MGOMD knew that the content was so powerful that it had the potential to make an impact with just one viewing so they decided to focus their efforts into one key moment.

It was important that they reached a large number of people quickly with Roy’s emotional story and so TV was the obvious choice of medium.

The Plan

They launched the film in a three minute ad break takeover in Good Morning Britain on ITV. Not only was the programme profile spot on and aired at the right time of day for charitable action but the episode was dedicated to loneliness in the UK so was the perfect environment.

For the remainder of the campaign, they produced a 60 second cut down of the film. Then, they cherry picked programmes that were poignant and that also appealed to their target audience of ABC1 55+ women. Examples include:

  • When Phillip met Prince Phillip
  • The Queen at 90

The TV campaign had generated a reaction on a mass scale as they had hoped it would. Following on from this, they used other channels to drive the message home. MGOMD created a loneliness index from Age UK’s data and turned this into a real-time loneliness map of the UK. The map revealed which areas of the country needed the most support. Using this data, they delivered 120 bespoke geo-targeted messages across five channels. This included:

  • Bespoke DOOH ads revealing how many people were chronically lonely in that area
  • Geo-targeted ads on mobile with the bespoke statistic to their location as well as details on how they could help
  • Roy’s story on Facebook with a live statistic of how many people were chronically lonely within their area
  • Unruly ran localised messaging for the first time across online sites which proved highly successful
  • On Spotify, they overlaid the loneliness statistic onto Christmas Playlists creating poignancy through juxtaposition

The loneliness map was also hosted on the Age UK website and distributed through their social channels and CRM. This enabled people to look up their area at a postcode level and reveal the depth of loneliness in their neighbourhood.


  • Age UK generated the largest number of volunteers the charity had ever seen and had its most successful year to date across all of its key business metrics
  • 13% of all volunteer enquiries came directly from the Good Morning Britain ad break
  • Fundraising increased 4% year on year (from a high base in 2015 as a result of the Man on the Moon John Lewis partnership)
  • 33,000 volunteer enquiries (in just 4 weeks) – 3 times more than the ‘Man on the Moon’ campaign and 12 times more than a typical full year
  • The amount of volunteer time pledged to Age UK’s Call In Time service equated to filling 2 million hours of lonely silence for older people across the UK in 2017
  • Generated 245% more calls than the previous year from lonely older people wanting to receive the Call In Time service
  • Web traffic increased in December 2016 by 24% year on year. This is compared to 6.9% year on year decline in November 2016
  • The campaign exceeded the click through rate benchmark for charity brands by 276% and increased consideration for volunteering by 15%
  • Winner of ‘Best Use of TV And…’ at TV Planning Awards

We approached Christmas 2016 knowing it would be hard to beat our previous year partnering with John Lewis and couldn’t have predicted how successful this campaign has been. We are overwhelmed with the number of volunteers we’ve received – the long term commitments made by the public will make a drastic difference to the lives of lonely older people across the country.

Marianne Hewitt Head of Brand Marketing, Age UK


Sector: Charity

Brand: Age UK

Campaign objectives:  To recruit volunteers for their Call In Time service

Target Audience: ABC1 Women aged 55+

Budget: Approx. £500k for TV

Campaign Dates: The launch spot ran on 5th December 2016. The remainder of the campaign ran until 31st December

TV Usage: 3 minute, 60 second and 30 second spots

Creative Agency: Drum 

Media Agency:  Manning Gottlieb OMD

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