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How advertising strategy ensured success for Fostering Solutions campaign

There are over 83,000 children in the UK who need the care and love of a stable family environment through fostering. To meet these demands, there is a need for 10,000 more foster carers.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding and preconceptions regarding the types of children who need foster care. For example, not all come from broken homes or are abused. Some are simply victims of their loving parents becoming seriously ill or, even worse, dying. Some are in their teens and have emotional or attitude issues which need special skills to deal with. Often children in care will have a poor education resulting in fewer qualifications and be more likely to offend or become a teenage parent. These children require a very remarkable type of carer.

Fostering Solutions is an independent fostering agency who currently have over 800 carers looking after over 1000 children. Fostering Solutions’ growth depends on recruiting more carers. These are made up of people from all walks of life, backgrounds and experiences and the main challenge is to find quality candidates, providing them with the necessary information and encouraging them to apply.

Background
People are often not aware that children in foster care are not just young babies and toddlers. In reality there are complex and challenging groups of people needing care; they are not all cute little children. In the past Fostering Solutions advertising has shown happy, smiling children and a generic message. Whilst this was effective with some audiences, it was felt that the imagery didn’t reflect the reality of the situation in which carers found themselves.

Foster carers need special skills to deal with teenage placements who come with emotional problems or attitude. Some children are not alone; they may have brothers or sisters and need to find a home where they can continue to be together to avoid increasing their anxieties.

Clock’s core objective was to help Fostering Solutions – the third largest independent fostering agency in the UK – to increase the number of enquiries and level of interest in the company and to recruit much-needed foster carers through an integrated marketing campaign. Fostering Solutions’ business depends on attracting, and retaining, foster carers and their recruitment advertising is the first step in achieving this. The strategy to create an integrated campaign is a new direction using emotive imagery and powerful headline propositions to draw the reader’s attention.

Outline of Strategy
The campaign, entitled ‘Who Cares?’ was brave and single-minded as it shows a more realistic side to caring and highlights some of the types of children who require care.

The strategy was to create a hard-hitting, fully integrated campaign using press advertising and bus rear posters in all of Fostering Solutions’ 14 key regional areas. The nature of these mediums means we can target the key audience whilst they are commuting to or from work, or having a tea break. To support the campaign a new website was launched at the same time to provide more information about fostering and a way to apply online.

Implementation of Strategy
Rather than using stock shots, we commissioned a renowned portrait photographer. This allowed us to create realistic and emotive studies using real people in urban environments – a look that couldn’t have been achieved by stock photography.

Emotive headlines were utilised to convey the specific groups of children who need care – teenagers, siblings and ethnic groups - together with the particular mindsets, problems and issues they face.
This way the applicant is clear of what they are getting into from the outset. The headlines, which end with ‘Who Cares?’, leave the reader with a question and a challenge.

To capitalise on the immediate emotional response of these dramatic messages, a text keyword of ‘care’ was added to the advert. This is a powerful new strategy and has proved to be very successful. Once a text is sent, the recruitment team call back the interested party.

The marketing objective is to recruit new carers. The advertising is the first step in this process and our strategy is tug at the heart strings of the general public to entice them into making an initial enquiry, be it by text or online. The additional marketing material that is sent out in the form of Information Packs, Annual Reports and Welcome Packs, supports the advertising message with a consistent and distinctive brand look and feel. All these elements are working hard to encourage a potential carer to choose Fostering Solutions over their competitors.

Results
Fostering is a life-changing decision and the process to become a foster carer takes approximately 6 months. Importantly, Fostering Solutions base their results on enquiries – applications are relevant but an interested person may not be in a position to apply immediately and might keep hold of the information for a number of months.

The advertising was launched in May 2010, just ahead of Foster Care Fortnight. The new website was also launched at this time and we have seen hits to the website increasing every month.

The campaign has brought Fostering Solutions tangible, effective results, the achievements are listed below:
• The number of enquiries to Fostering Solutions has increased by 44% in 8 months from September 2010 to May 2011
• Number of applications to Fostering Solutions has increased by 20% in 8 months from September 2010 to May 2011
• The text campaign has brought in 376 responses in the period, of which 48% have gone on to request further information

The more carers that Fostering Solutions have, the more children they can place, which in turn generates increased revenue. This year Fostering Solutions reached a new milestone with 1000 children in care.

Client Testimonial
Last year, Fostering Solutions celebrated its tenth anniversary and although a lot has changed in ten years, our commitment to finding safe foster homes for children and young people has never faltered. To mark this milestone, Clock created the “Who Cares” campaign which, with the help of some powerful photography and copywriting, has been a hit from day one. Thanks to the campaign we have seen over a 40% increase in the number people expressing an interest in becoming foster carers. That’s great news for fostering!
Hannah Mathew, PR & Communications Manager, Fostering Solutions

This case study was submitted as part of The Drum Marketing Awards and was awarded a Nomination for Advertising Strategy

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