The National Asthma Campaign: straws mailing

Exhibited by
SOFII
Added
August 28, 2012
Medium of Communication
Direct mail
Target Audience
Awareness, individuals
Type of Charity
Disabilities, research & policy development
Country of Origin
UK
Date of first appearance
1991

SOFII’s view

This revolutionary pack features an irresistible involvement device, an easily detachable plastic drinking straw that readers are invited to detach, open and breathe through for less than a minute. This simple device very readily enables those who try it to experience for themselves what it is like to suffer from the breathing difficulties that are associated with asthma.

Zena Carter and Cary Goode at NAC and Ken Burnett at Burnett Associates Limited.

Name of exhibitor

Zena Carter.

NAC wanted to create a cost-effective donor acquisition pack.

Background

Cary Spink was NAC’s director at the time. She wanted to project the organisation as a dynamic, campaigning research organisation working urgently to combat the scourge of childhood asthma, which was then on the increase. This pack answered her brief precisely.

I joined the National Asthma Campaign (now Asthma UK) in December 1989 as its first paid fundraiser. A staff member, describing his personal experience, likened the tightening of the airways during an asthma attack as ‘like trying to breathe through a straw’. He couldn’t understand why I got so excited!

Burnett Associates were planning the NAC’s first direct mail pack. I put forward the idea at an agency meeting with Cary Goode and Ken Burnett – and the rest is history.

The leaflet has eight faces, concertina folded to A6 size. The envelopes were hand-addressed, I think by NAC volunteers. We used the pack in reciprocal mailings, swapping part of our mailing list with other organisations – data protection laws were rather different in 1991. In one reciprocal mailing, with Botton Village, we generated a response of around seven per cent.

I’m delighted by the way the straws mailing is remembered. Dr Susan Kay-Williams, now CEO of the Royal School of Needlework, vividly remembers being the employee at Burnett Associates who organised the stripey straws. I mentioned the pack just the other day to a neighbour who runs a direct mail agency and she instantly recalled being on the panel that gave it a direct mail award over 20 years ago.

And now, out of my cellar, has emerged maybe the only remaining example of this remarkable mailing pack – returned undeliverable in 1991.

Special characteristics

The ‘bendy’ straws, each individually cellophane wrapped, were donated by the manufacturers, Tetrapac.

Influence/impact

This pack achieved considerable notoriety and was widely copied by other organisations trying to develop their own equivalent version of the NAC straws involvement device.

Details

This pack was rigorously tested at the time both in reciprocal mailings and with an array of cold lists, but no records have so far come to light; 40,000 packs were tested initially.

Results

This pack became the NAC’s banker pack for many years.

Merits

This pack isn’t just an award winner, it is also demonstrably creative with its original and imaginative way of enabling recipients to feel for themselves what it’s like to live with asthma.

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The challenge on the front of the leaflet.
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Inside the leaflet, a moving quote from a young boy who has asthma.
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A brief explanation of NAC’s research.
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The inside back page of the leaflet.
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The back page of the leaflet.
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First page of the letter.
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Second page of the letter.
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The hand-addressed return envelope – probably written by a volunteer.
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The front and back of the undeliverable mailing – that, fortunately for SOFII, ended up in Zena’s cellar.