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Award Winner 2020: Voluntary Sector Campaign of the Year

British Heart Foundation - You’re Full of It

The 2020 PRCA Public Affairs Awards celebrated the best work of the year and below is the category's winning entry.


1. To increase awareness amongst the general public and key decision makers of the link between poor air quality and damage to the heart and circulatory system.

2. To reframe the threat of air pollution so that people understand that we’re at risk of constantly breathing in tiny particles which can damage our organs and increase our risk of heart attack and stroke. We want everyone to feel that air pollution needs to be tackled now, before any further damage is done.

3. To secure support for the introduction of stricter limits on air pollution within the Environment Bill, as recommended by the World Health Organization, through direct engagement with MPs and via generation of supporter emails.

Strategy & Research

As a medical research charity, the British Heart Foundation has invested £5.8 million into pioneering research that has uncovered how air pollution damages our heart health. This research has shed light on how harmful pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) can enter the bloodstream and cause damage to people’s heart and circulatory systems, increasing the risk of potentially deadly heart attacks and strokes.

However, too few people are aware of the impact air pollution has on their health and for too long tackling poor air quality has been seen as an environmental rather than a health issue. Our campaign set out to change that using a highly engaging, tailored and impactful creative: You’re full of it.

Creating media noise and driving awareness:

Our aim was to move air pollution up the political agenda and drive a commitment to introduce stricter limits in the Environment Bill. To do that we set out to make this a priority for every MP, using a mixture of prominently placed out-of-home advertising across the UK (including in stations heading into Westminster) and a Metro cover- wrap to catch the attention of the general public and MPs. Our creative was designed to be tailored dependent on location, for example, ‘Mancunians are full of it’.

Targeted approach via digital to drive action:

We also planned a highly targeted digital approach, aimed at mobilising supporters to contact MPs representing areas with poor air quality and Conservative backbench MPs, whom we ideally wanted to advocate behind-the- scenes for changes to the Environment Bill.

Direct approach using public affairs tactics to capitalise on media and digital campaign:

We planned direct outreach to government Ministers, officials and all MPs, through campaign branded comms, 1:1 meetings, a parliamentary event and the publication of a new report to assess what had been achieved by the Government since the launch of the Clean Air Strategy in 2019, and where it needed to go further.


Our campaign launched on 13 January 2020, right before the Government announced the re-introduction of the Environment Bill. We timed this to ensure there was a clear goal to our influencing and opportunity for MPs to act through support for an amendment to the Bill.

We maximised exposure to the campaign on launch, delivering across a range of different channels including print and broadcast media with PR on day one and the Metro cover-wrap on day two. We also launched digital content on the BHF website which included the ‘email your MP’ tool, functionality to find out how polluted the air is in your area and information about the effect of air pollution on our bodies and the research BHF has funded.

Our digital approach was highly targeted, delivering content tailored to the area someone lived in and providing air pollution levels to drive action (for example, ‘Hey, London...’).

In parliament, we followed this with the publication of our report, one year on from the Clean Air Strategy, which we launched at a parliamentary event. The event also provided MPs with the opportunity to explore a specially designed augmented reality experience which conveyed the different types of pollution that may be affecting their constituents, meet a prominent BHF-funded air pollution researcher and take away a constituency tailored briefing. We also used the report to increase our engagement with key officials within the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Creativity & Originality

Our campaign took complex medical research and translated it into a health issue that mattered to people’s lives in an urgent way. The creative was hard-hitting, stood out and gave the opportunity for personalisation depending on the audience and location to suit different contexts.

Our multi-pronged approach ensured that we maximised coverage of the campaign, creating cut-through with our key audiences.

Results & Evaluation

Our campaign outperformed against expectations, with awareness of the issue amongst MPs rising from 65% pre- campaign to 85% post-campaign and support jumping from 65% to 78%. We saw the biggest increase in support amongst Conservative MPs (from 51% to 69%) which reflected our strategy to target them to increase Government-party support. For all measures, our campaign was the best performing out of all prompted campaigns. (Base: 111 MPs | Source: Charity Parliamentary Monitor, Feb/Mar 2020, nfpSynergy (six prompted campaigns).

Amongst the public, awareness of a connection between heart and circulatory diseases and air pollution moved from 68% pre-campaign to 85% of those who recalled seeing our advertisements. 69% of the general public had the opportunity to see our campaign and the PR campaign delivered:

  • 870 pieces of coverage (523 broadcast, 178 print and 179 online);
  • An op-ed in the Times Red Box morning newsletter (‘Air pollution: Ministers must take a deep breath and act’);
  • 600 pieces of coverage of launch story (‘Toxic air set to cause 160,000 stroke and heart attack deaths’);
  • 12m people reached via social media.

The campaign was described as providing an ‘excellent briefing and lobby event’ and a ‘very slick and professional event in parliament’ and the augmented reality experience called out by one MP: ‘This year's 3D modelling on air quality was also excellent, as was the bespoke constituency information.’ In the Lords, a Conservative Peer commented: ‘Link between air pollution and heart disease now clear - action is needed’ and a Labour Peer: ‘One of the great silent killers in the UK - needs more awareness & BHF have made a start’.

All 650 MPs received emails from their constituents, with 9,000 sent across the campaign and many MPs writing to the Environment Secretary. Harriet Harman MP listed emails from constituents on air pollution as the second most numerous in January in a newsletter to constituents. The parliamentary event was attended by over 70 MPs and staff members.

The campaign helped us to develop our relationships with key people, including Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA committee, who went on to table an amendment to the Environment Bill to secure the inclusion of WHO limits on pollution. We also secured meetings with DEFRA officials as a result of the publication of our report, which was described as a helpful tool to progress conversations within government. Our work to influence the Environment Bill continues, as it is still making its way through its parliamentary stages, and we continue to capitalise on the relationships developed during this first phase of our campaign.