Giving homelessness the Elbow
Dinosaur, MHP and Guy Garvey join forces
Dinosaur’s new brand film for Manchester Homelessness Partnership has just launched across social media. The minute-long video, narrated by Elbow frontman, Guy Garvey, aims to raise awareness of MHP’s Big Change initiative.
It’s a cause that’s very close to our hearts, and we’re proud to lend our support to an organisation that’s doing such life-changing work across our city. So here’s a little background into how the film came to life plus a sneak peek behind-the-scenes.
Giving differently to help Manchester’s Homeless
Most advertising agency creatives will be familiar with the Christmas Card brief. Yep, that old chestnut. Never easy, is it? You’re tasked with coming up with something novel, festive and clever… that essentially says the same thing. The problem we had last year in particular was that 2016 had been peppered with uncertainty and disappointed, and the usual festive frivolity just didn’t sit quite right.
We wanted to do something more.
According to Shelter, between June and December last year alone, there was a 30 per cent increase in homelessness in Manchester. You didn’t have to tell us that. Being located in the Northern Quarter, we’re right on the front line.
So we told our clients that in place of Christmas cards, we were turning our attention to one of the more pressing issues facing our city: homelessness.
We were put in touch with Manchester Homelessness Partnership (MHP). They are an organisation made up of homeless charities, local businesses and organisations who are working to tackle homelessness across the city.
Helping MHP make a Big Change
MHP has an initiative called Big Change. It’s a central fundraising pot that’s shared between 20 Manchester homeless charities including Shelter, Centrepoint North, Barnabus and Big Issue North. It’s run solely by volunteers and supports individuals who are homeless by paying for items they need. They can be big or small things; from a pair of shoes or a bed for the night, right up to a deposit for a new flat.
What’s important is that by pooling their resources, the homeless charities can work together to provide seamless, tailored support to help people get off the streets for good.
So we asked MHP, what did it need from us. Sleeping bags? Volunteers for soup kitchens? Clothes?
No, they said. All that stuff’s covered by the charities. What the partnership wanted more than anything else was a helping hand to spread the word.
We realised it needed an engaging, shareable video content marketing campaign to push out across social media channels. It wants people to know what Big Change is, how they help to transform lives and to drum up support.
Accentuating the positives
So our lead creatives, Creative Director, Dan Pitchford and Senior Copywriter, Katie Shoard set to work. Copywriter Matt Cook also donated his time to pitch in at the concept stage too. Not far into the process, it became obvious that ‘tone’ was going to be a big driver for the content.
Charity brand videos and corporate social responsibility campaigns tend to follow a certain format. Think lingering black and white shots. Slow, tinkling piano version of a cult track. A serious voiceover delivered in hushed tones.
But that isn’t what Big Change is about.
They had some key messages they wanted to convey too. But they were tricky. The main one was to encourage to donate to Big Change instead of giving money to people begging on the streets. Why? Because it’s only a short-term fix. Whatever they chose to spend it on, it’s never going to help them get off the streets.
But of course, we could never say that directly.
We simply had to persuade people to ‘give differently’. Homelessness is an emotive issue, and no one likes to be told what they should and should not be doing to help. After all, how we choose to spend our money is our business and, on a more basic human level, it’s hard to walk past a homeless person and not feel the need to help in some way.
So instead, we decided to show all the positive things Big Change has done. Our content would focus on the myriad ways in which Big Change has helped over 230 people rebuild their lives. So we anchored the narrative in real-life success stories.
Chris, our in-house motion graphics whizz would have the task of editing and grading the video content. Transforming a series of disparate images and motion to create a fast-paced, punchy brand film that would drive the messages home in an uplifting way. And that people would want to share on social.
Help from some really nice guys
With a script finalised and signed-off by our delighted clients, we spoke to friend of the agency, Matt Bloom for some directorial advice in bringing MHP’s brand film to life. Once we had the approach and the storyboards nailed down, the folks at Beautiful Productions helped us secure the services of Guy Garvey to narrate the script. He said yes straight away. He loved it. We were all buzzing (especially Eleanor at Big Change, who is a huge Elbow fan.)
The recording was a breeze. Guy was as charming, helpful and modest as you’d expect, and spoke of how pleased he was to be able to lend his support. Guy also agreed to share the piece through his own social media channels which was great news for Big Change. A huge boost for MHP’s reach.
Next steps, the shoot. We had lots of help, this time from the students at Futureworks that helped us film on location, again donating their time for free. The Dinosaur folks all helped by bringing props from home, from bed spreads to skillets and everything in between.
One of the film locations was Mooch’s house. It’s the section of the film where we see the end result of the help Big Change offers, the point where an individual moves into their new home.
Mooch now works for Big Change but he was once homeless himself. He knows first-hand how difficult it can be to turn your life around. That’s part of the reason he is so passionate about whipping up support for the charities and partners working hard to help rough sleepers leave the streets behind them.
He is one of MHP’s real success stories and a source of inspiration to us all. He’s exactly why we got involved with this project, to help spread the word that by giving your spare pennies to Big Change, you really can help people rebuild lives away from the streets.
So why not get involved? You can donate your time, money or items to Big Change at bigchangemcr.org
Big Change Manchester’s brand film can be found on social media: Twitter: @BigChangeMCR
Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more, give us a call on 0161 831 0831 and ask for Nicola or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also published on Medium.