The Stroke Association: Rebuilding Lives


Key Points

  • Lack of visibility made it difficult for the Stroke Association to cut through and call attention to stroke as a serious UK health issue, and to promote the organisation’s role in supporting survivors and their families
  • In their first ever TV campaign, they partnered with Channel 4 for an ad-break premiere featuring teasers and a striking 60” ad
  • Awareness amongst the core target audience almost doubled and knowledge scores increased significantly

The Challenge

Stroke is the UK’s fourth biggest killer, affecting one person every five minutes, however the condition doesn’t rank among the top 10 health concerns.

Often, it’s difficult for people to picture what a stroke survivor looks like or to understand what kinds of challenges they may face afterwards. This lack of visibility created a problem for the Stroke Association, making it difficult to cut through and call attention to stroke as a serious health issue, and to promote the organisation’s role in supporting survivors and their families.

With less than 1% SOV, the charity’s prompted awareness was also in long term decline, falling from 49% in Nov. 2009 to 41% in June 2018, and only 9% of people in the UK could name a charity working in the area of stroke.

Consumer insight showed that the organisation had to communicate stroke’s brutal reality while challenging the fatalism around stroke – offering hope for recovery, highlighting the need for support and the role of the Stroke Association.

The campaign objectives were to:

  • Increase awareness of the Stroke Association amongst those connected to stroke aged 35+
  • Increase the number of people who know about the Stroke Association amongst those connected to stroke aged 35+

The TV Solution

Life after stroke isn’t always visible and it’s not easy to tell what a stroke survivor looks like, so working with their media agency, PHD, the Stroke Association’s overarching strategy was to make the cause visible.

They needed a high impact, emotive channel to be able to drive fame and tell the story from the point of view of real stroke survivors. As they also needed to speak with those connected to stroke, who are impossible to target precisely, a broadcast channel which spoke to the masses was a must.

Despite the Stroke Association having never used TV before, they knew it would be the essential channel for achieving the level of cut through and emotional resonance needed to elevate stroke from a condition to a cause, pushing it into the national conversation, and reframing how people viewed the condition.

By casting six actual stroke survivors, and hiring a director who had had a stroke, AMV BBDO brought the campaign to life in a strikingly emotive execution that told the story of what it’s like to experience a stroke from survivors’ points of view.

The Plan

Based on not only its heritage of successfully championing good causes, but also its wide range of channels and viewing audiences, the Stroke Association selected Channel 4 as their sole media owner partner.

To drive fame, the striking 60” ad launched in a special Channel 4 ad-break premiere during the final break of Gogglebox. To create tension and intrigue, and to mimic the confusion and disorientation often experienced by stroke victims, this was preceded by a series of 5-second ‘blipverts’ during ad breaks prior to the reveal.

The campaign ran for 10 weeks from April using a shorter 30” execution, with spots optimised around contextually relevant programming moments to extend reach and around major sporting events to drive fame.

To support the TV activity and to further drive conversation, particular around Stroke Awareness Month during May, video content also ran across YouTube and social media.


  • Campaign awareness doubled amongst those connected to stroke
  • The number of 35-44 year olds who know about the Stroke Association increased by 12% YOY. Among this age group, ‘very likely to support’ rose 55%, and had doubled by September 2019.
  • Significant conversation was generated about both the topic of stroke and the association, with over 80% driven by the broad 35+ target
  • In May 2019, social engagements hit 1m for the first time ever, against a monthly average of 50k-100k
  • Despite not including a fundraising call to action, a financial impact was also felt - fundraising mailings to warm audiences have consistently generated income 15-40% above target, and a donation test on wave two had a 7:1 ROI.
  • The campaign was a finalist in the Best TV Newcomer category at the TV Planning Awards 2020. It also won ‘Best Use of Insight’ and the ‘Judges’ Choice’ categories at The Marketing Society Brave Awards 2020, as well as the Charity Times ‘Campaign of the Year’.

Our limited budget meant that value for money was everything. Our approach to the campaign initially raised eyebrows but it brought different teams closer together and inspired a level of creativity and understanding that we wouldn’t have achieved using a traditional approach.

We knew we needed to tell our audience something new about stroke (specifically, that it doesn’t just happen to older people); to show the devastation it causes in an instant; and to show how with the right support and a ton of courage, recovery is possible. The one theme that drove us all was authenticity. And TV was exactly the right medium to do it in.

On launch night, we created a Eurovision-esque link up between our offices across the UK and a visit from one of the stars of our ad. The sense of pride and positivity in reaction to the first screening was overwhelming.

Being on TV made us all feel more connected than ever before.

Jane Maber Head of Brand, The Stroke Association


Sector: Charity & Government

Brand: Stroke Association

Campaign objectives: Increase awareness of the charity and the number of people who say they know about it

Target Audience: Adults 35+

Budget: £500,000 - £2,000,000

Campaign Dates: April – June 2019

TV Usage: 60” and 30” spots and 5” blipverts

Creative Agency: AMV BBDO

Media Agency:  PHD

You might also like

How taking an alternative path took Aldi from shame to pride

Learn how Aldi won an IPA Bronze Effectiveness Award by using humourous campaigns to turn their negatives into positives.


OLIO: what a wonderful waste

How a simple but haunting TV ad generated behaviour change and encouraged use to share rather than waste food


Shop Responsibly: collaboration in a time of crisis

How agencies, broadcasters and advertisers united to promote shopping responsibly rather than panic buying