In the behaviour change world, passing new legislation to change a default is the equivalent of pressing the nuclear button.
But sometimes it’s the right answer – and so this spring, England will follow the path laid by Wales in 2015 and assume consent for organ donation unless people actively opt out. Scotland will adopt the same approach in the autumn.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) launched a new TV campaign just before Christmas to increase awareness of the impending change and encourage people to talk about their wishes with their families and register a decision. It’s part of the year-long Pass It On campaign launched last April.
While the Christmas hook for the PR launch felt a little tenuous – I’m sceptical about how many people will really have brought up organ donation while carving the turkey – the campaign uses a clever, subtle and touching visual device to stand out.
In the TV ad, a heart-shaped balloon is carried from home by one woman, taken across town on the bus, and gently floated up to another grateful woman at a window halfway up her tower block. The tagline: pass it on.
The double meaning in the messaging is powerful, not trite. And the storytelling focus on the donor giving a precious gift rather than on the recipient is smart: it encourages people to put themselves in the donor’s shoes and consider their own position on organ donation.
Sticky visual device
The campaign is well integrated with the existing digital ads based on the same creative concept: a sticky visual that will become more memorable if, as you would expect, the weight of the campaign increases as the deadline for the law change draws nearer.
Overall it’s a well-executed campaign on an important and sensitive issue. Every day in the UK three people who could have benefited from a transplant die because there aren’t enough donors, and only one in three have told their family they want to donate – yet 8 in 10 say they would definitely or would consider donating their organs.
It will be interesting to see how the campaign develops between now and spring, and just as importantly, how it builds from there and seeks to engage a range of audiences, including harder to reach groups.
NHSBT will be hoping to replicate the impact achieved in Wales, where the consent rate is now the highest in the UK at 77%, up from 58% in 2015, and 10 points higher than England. I wish them the very best of success – lives are depending on it.