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Here’s How Our Campaign Reached 121 Million People in Just 14 Days

What have Lyra, aged six, Stormzy and the PM got it common?

They are all part of, or milestones in, the biggest ever social media-based campaign and fundraiser for Brain Tumour Research.

When Lyra was five months, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. 

Sadly, only 20% of children and adults diagnosed survive. Thankfully, Lyra recovered fully. Historically, just 1% of national spend on cancer research is allocated to the disease.

Our Co-Founder and Creative Director, and Lyra’s aunty, Jessie Hawkes, along with Michelle Michael, fellow Co-Founder, had the idea to release a Christmas single with Lyra, who loves to perform, for Brain Tumour Research.

After pitching our idea to the charity, we developed our strategy. The project, from idea and conception, to music and video production, through to music distribution and release, took just two weeks.

Our objective was to raise awareness for Brain Tumour Research and money to fund invaluable research. 

The single edged-out Stormzy for the top spot in the Amazon music download chart and secured:

  • 615+ pieces of media coverage
  • A 121+ million reach
  • 380,000+ video views across social media 
  • This Morning with Phillip and Holly, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, ITV News and radio interviews
  • Lyra’s page and Lyra-related news bulletins on the Brain Tumour Research’s website attracted 14k+ visitors. A 120% increase when compared with December last year
  • It was named ITV’s Stand Out Social Media Video of 2019.

And to top it off, Lyra received the PM’s Points of Light Award for her efforts.  

Marketing position before the marketing idea was developed

We pride ourselves on creating visual content and innovative social media campaigns.  

Having seen my niece, Lyra, ill for more than a year battling a brain tumour as a baby, I knew I was going to give back one day. 

It made perfect sense for The Digital Ladder to utilise its skills to create a pro-bono campaign for Brain Tumour Research (BTR), taking into account the tiny allocation of national spend on research and the fact brain tumours kill more people under the age of 40 than any other cancer. 

BTR is determined to raise awareness to change this, so are we. 

Objectives

To raise awareness and funds for a charity in need of help. As a nation, we’re unaware of the deaths related to brain tumours. It’s not as well publicised or funded as other forms of cancer.

Insights

  • When Lyra Cole was just five months old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She recovered fully.

  • 16,000 people every year are diagnosed with a brain tumour in the UK.

  • Sadly, only 20% of those diagnosed survive. 

  • Historically, just 1% of national spend on cancer research is allocated to the disease.

  • BTR is the only national charity dedicated to raising funds for scientific research and is a leading voice calling for greater support and action for research.

  • It is building a network of experts at dedicated Centres of Excellence while also influencing the Government and larger cancer charities to invest more.

Target audience… 

To reach people who hadn’t previously known about the charity, many of whom had no idea about its work, or the statistics related to brain tumours.

Brief… 

To create, record, film, produce, promote, support a single and music video capable of entering the British singles charts with a chance of being Christmas number one, while also managing an unknown artist, aged six.

Our strategy was audacious. We pitched the concept to the charity via an hour-long Skype call in late November. 

It started with an idea. Lyra enjoys singing and The Digital Ladder had the capability to produce a music video and create an online campaign. 

All six of the management team who joined us on the call were in agreement – the idea had legs, but time was not on our side. 

Business challenges… 

BTR gave us two weeks to have everything up and running. Given the time it would take us to record the song and produce the music video, we conceived a clear strategy to cover our tight deadline. 

We only launched last summer, are a small business and had other client deadlines. Time was managed effectively to fulfil all our commitments.

Our other challenge was managing the impact on Lyra. Her well-being –

above the awareness and fundraising potential – was paramount.

Solution

We selected the Christmas song ‘When A Child Is Born’, as we thought it dovetailed with Lyra’s story and her personality. 

We searched for a recording studio able to deliver the song within our short time frame, could produce the backing track and, also, work with Lyra to record her vocals. 

On November 20, just two days after our initial Skype call, we were at Joules Productions’ recording studio in London. After three long days, the final track was delivered on November 24.    

Film production came next, with promotional images, then song distribution to major platforms i.e. Amazon, iTunes and Spotify. 

We used Christmas-themed locations near Lyra’s home to help tell the story. The filming was in Santa’s grotto at the iconic Grand Pier and in Icescape at the Tropicana in Weston-super-Mare, both places Lyra loves. We stitched the music, recorded in London, and the film together simultaneously.

With the visual content complete, we sent it across to BTR, who said it was outstanding, and emotional to watch, because of the powerful story within the video.

It is rare for a six-year-old brain tumour survivor to perform and tell a story through her voice, accompanied by a professional music video. 

Our strategy started with social media and continued through TV, radio, press and eventually to the charity’s website, through donations, and to Amazon and iTunes, where the song was purchased. 

The way we managed Lyra’s role and supported her made a difference to the success of the campaign. We controlled all the press enquiries, thus achieving the maximum exposure for the charity, as well as ensuring Lyra’s well-being. 

We had to ensure all the performances were fun for Lyra. Jessie often sang with her on stage.

Results… 

The music video launched on December 3.

Our focused objectives were connected across a series of marketing platforms to promote the sale of the song and raise awareness of BTR.  This included social media, content, print, TV and radio.

It touched the hearts of 1000s instantly. In just a few short hours, Lyra was already number one in the Amazon Music Charts, beating the likes of Stormzy and Dua Lipa.

We’ve hundreds of comments from followers, many were brought to tears. 

Having clear goals from the start meant we could utilise every platform but keep the efforts focused. 

Her ranking at number one in the Amazon Music Charts attracted media attention. In the first week, Lyra appeared on This Morning, BBC Breakfast, ITV News, SKY News, had numerous radio interviews and 615+ further pieces of press coverage.  

Two weeks later, Lyra’s story had reached 121+ million people. 

Sir Cliff Richard, who had previously recorded the song, sent Lyra a personal video message. This was secured by our efforts working collaboratively with BTR.

We believe the storytelling within the video we produced and created was the fundamental reason for the success of the campaign. 

The video gained substantial traction, gaining 300,000+ views across social media. 

We set-up and managed Lyra’s social media channels. They were heavily used to promote the single and BTR.

On Facebook she gained 1,500 followers within two weeks of her pages being created. The music video on Facebook reached 234,307 people, had 176,000 views, 1,800 shares and 26,279 engagements. Her YouTube channel gained 540+ subscribers, the video viewed 137,000+ times with 2,200+ likes.

The call to action on each post was purchasing the single. 

“Lyra Cole has a winning smile and the kind of voice a girl of her age should have: imperfect, but full of character, driven by the sort of earnest effort that makes the heart melt… it is impossible to get through the whole thing without blubbing.” – The Sunday Times.

The song reached number 16 in the Official UK Downloads Charts with 1000s of purchases. Sales (currently £9,000+, final figures TBC) will go to BTR.

The charity’s statistics showed the story reached people who hadn’t previously been involved with BTR.

We secured the status of ‘musician’ for Lyra in the Google Knowledge Panel, only awarded to artists who demonstrate a particular following and traction, and added her social media platforms. Lyra is interested in continuing with singing, so this will help.

After Christmas, Lyra received a letter from the Prime Minster praising her efforts and awarding her a Points of Light Award. 

This was a fitting finale to a tremendous campaign. But even more hits and coverage are coming through including us both being added to the Wall of Hope in Plymouth as a lasting acknowledgement for helping fund research. 

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