older people in a fitness class to represent firefish and the account planning group's session on health

TAC: How do you make people healthier?

August 1, 2018

At Firefish, we like to help people think smartly to solve tricky problems and it doesn’t get much trickier than ‘How do you make people healthier?’

This was the topic of the latest insightful evening in the ‘Thinking Around Corners’ series hosted by Firefish and APG.

A capacity audience at McCann Health’s offices heard an eclectic mix of speakers share their experiences on successfully enacting change, from reducing sugar intake by children, to promoting a stop smoking campaign and encouraging men to check for prostate cancer.

On the surface, quite different topics, but as Firefish CEO, Jem Fawcus, noted on the night, the key to success in these differing campaigns all hinged on speaking to the people involved.

Jem has spent his career making sense of the world we live in and explaining it to clients and planners to help them about tackle problems and solve them in a different, unconventional way. He has always believed that to truly understand an audience, you need to spend time with them and talk; and this was one of the key themes highlighted throughout the evening as an essential aspect towards behaviour change.

Pete Buckley and Richard Bartlett, formerly of MEC, created the Change 4 Life app and spoke about their sugar intake reduction campaign. Their insight came from speaking to parents who they realised were ill aware of sugar content – including thinking ice cream was a healthy snack or that lemonade would count as one of their child’s five a day. Using those conversations, they designed an app that showed the actual number of sugar cubes in everyday products and, in turn, this led to 81% of parents polled saying they had reduced their child’s sugar intake as a direct consequence.

Errol McKeller of The Errol McKeller Foundation stressed the importance of helping men speak about prostate cancer in normal day-to-day conversations. Having survived prostate cancer himself, he realised that most men won’t discuss the subject. By talking to men he lighted upon the idea of using the metaphor of a car MOT as a way of breaking into their conversations. ‘You check your motor every year, do you check yourself?’. Since beginning to raise awareness through normalising the conversation and using an easy to understand metaphor, Errol has helped 49 men get a prostate cancer diagnosis and therefore increase their chance of successful treatment.

Craig Mawdsley, Joint Chief Strategy Officer at AMV BBDO was clear that you should listen to people before you impose your own thinking. When working with Cancer Research UK, he reframed the question from ‘how do we stop people smoking?’ to ‘how do you stop people wanting to smoke when they really, really, really want to?’ and it became clear that there wasn’t just one simple answer. His resulting campaign relied on multiple channels to combat the multiple reasons for smoking – all of which only came through by talking to the smokers themselves.

Jem reflected on the unifying factor of the evening: to get moments of great understanding, the level of understanding that changes thinking that can propel us forward to great ideas, great work and great change; you have to talk to people, hear what they say and then you will be ready to be truly Thinking Around Corners.

Here’s a film of the event and, if you want to come to the next one, keep an eye on our APG event page.

Have questions, or a brief you want us to look at? Just get in touch.


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