St. John Ambulance “Helpless” by BBH, London

BBH London have taken a hard-hitting approach with their latest brief for St. John Ambulance – a two-minute film that highlights the importance of first aid.

The story follows the journey of a man diagnosed with cancer who, after undergoing treatment, survives only to die needlessly as a result of choking because no one he is with knows first aid.

Using hard facts dug out from research, it was found that up to 140,000 people die needlessly each year in situations where first aid could have helped save their lives. Comparably, this is as many that die from cancer.

This film is central to the ‘Helpless’ campaign being run by St. John Ambulance together with BBH which aired last night (Sunday 16th September 2012) on ITV1’s Downton Abbey which earned an impressive 9.6m viewers.

The call to action at the end of the ad prompts viewers to text the word “HELP” to 84025 to receive a free first aid guide. I texted in earlier today and, after then sending my name and postcode, have been told I’ll receive the guide in the post. There is also an iPhone app available for information on the go. Hopefully, as more people spread the film online, viewers can give themselves a little basic training in first aid which could save someone life.

The film itself is beautifully shot and striking in its message although I do feel that the campaign title and hashtag should be changed from ‘Helpless’ to ‘Needless’. I understand that if one does not know first aid but is in a position to help someone it renders them helpless as well as the victim. However, to better accentuate the foregoing copy reading “First aid could help prevent up to 140,000 deaths every year. The same number of people that die from cancer.” using the word “Needless” seems more appropriate as it better highlights the dismal irony of the man dying from something so easily preventable at the end. Nonetheless, the overall effect of the advert is a extremely suitable with the call to action and tagline, ‘Be The Difference’, brilliantly toping off another brilliant BBH-special.

Director of marketing, communications and fundraising: Scott Jacobson
BBH creative team: Dan Morris Charlene Chandrasekaran
BBH creative directors: Matt Doman and Ian Heartfield
BBH producer: Matthew Towell
BBH team manager: Katie Beevers
BBH team director: Emma Brooker
BBH strategist: Carl Mueller
BBH strategic business lead: Ann-Marie Costelloe
Production company: Blink
Director: Benito Montorio
Executive producer: James Studholme and James Bland
Producer: Josh Barwick
Director of Photography: Federico Alfonzo
Post production: MPC –  Jean Clemont
Editor: Andy McGraw
Sound: Will Cohen, Factory Studios
Exposure (where is this work running, country and media type): UK, TV & online


2 thoughts on “St. John Ambulance “Helpless” by BBH, London

  1. Sigh, this is a great ad with the key impact spoiled: they give away the ending in the title!!!!! It works much much better if you don’t know what’s coming.

    • Completely agree – hopefully it surprised TV audiences when they saw it but, for those of us that share it online, the ending is sadly ruined.

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