Our favourite marketing moments (part one)

To commemorate the Advertising Club of New York’s 120th anniversary, team members at Conscious Communications have reminisced on their favourite influential campaigns that have helped to shape what the industry is today. Part two to follow.


1984 by Apple

Chosen by Alan, Senior Designer

“Apple’s 1984 advert was prescient. For those that were not into blind acceptance, who didn’t want to stand in line when they were told to, it showed images of rebellion and hope.”

Listed in the 50 greatest adverts of all time, Apple’s 1984 first aired in the 1984 Super Bowl XVIII advert break. Directed by Ridley Scott, 1984 was awarded the top prize at Cannes and was replayed relentlessly on news programmes following the game. It has been estimated that 1984 generated over $5 million in free publicity.


This Girl Can by Sport England and the National Lottery

Chosen by Zoë, Client Services Director

“The This Girl Can campaign continues to surprise and delight me. The campaign has numerous ‘faces’, all designed to inspire fellow women and I have definitely been inspired by the photos and uplifting tag lines of real stories!”

The This Girl Can campaign is a simple concept; a celebration of active women who are doing ‘their thing’ no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their faces get. The campaign is led by imagery and messaging to tell the story, often with the logo as a secondary element of the advert. The campaign got over 1.6 million women in the UK exercising.


She’s a lady by H&M

Chosen by Kathryn, Senior PR and Marketing Executive

“I wouldn’t say I am a feminist, but I thought it was genius for a clothing brand to step away from the size 2 ‘beautiful’ and celebrate the everyday woman.”

Diversity is always a hot topic (especially in the advertising industry), and H&M’s advert for its autumn/winter 2016 collection features a range of normal women, doing everyday things: the sorts of people you see on your commute to work, the sorts of people you are friends with – the sorts of people you would see shopping in H&M.


#NoMakeUpSelfies for Cancer Research UK

Chosen by Becky, PR and Marketing Administrator

“I loved the rise of the ‘selfless selfie’ – it is a fantastic example of how social media can make a campaign viral to benefit a great cause.”

The #NoMakeUp selfie campaign grew organically in the UK, and ended up raising over two million pounds for Cancer Research UK. Author Laura Lippman started the trend to support a fellow actress whose looks were criticised at the Oscars. Other social media users picked up on the post and the hashtag #breastcancerawareness and donation links to Cancer Research UK were added to the selfies. Because most interesting ideas need a fun spin-off, the hashtag #manupandmakeup also started trending, as men put on makeup to raise money for Prostate Cancer U.K.

Jiminy cricket

Senior PR and Marketing Executive, Kathryn Ford, reminisces on her two volunteer days spent with the PCA Benevolent Fund.  

Many people perceive the lives of professional sportsmen to be full of glamour and glory. It often can be, but less well recognised is the reality that many dedicate their lives to their careers from a very early age, training to be the best, but by 35 it’s over.

There are few careers that require such physical dedication, and carry such risk – one injury can leave you no longer employable. What happens to all those individuals who, having achieved greatness and perhaps even proudly competed, wearing their country’s emblem, are no longer on your TV screen or radio airwaves?

For my charity days this year I chose to support the PCA (Professional Cricket Association) Benevolent Fund, working at two of its fundraising events. The PCA Benevolent Fund is a support network that helps former and current players and their immediate family members in times of hardship and upheaval. The fund provides vital financial support for medical treatment, including emergency operations and physiotherapy, alongside helping individuals who are having difficulty adjusting to life after cricket. The fund has also created the Mind Matters initiative, a confidential helpline that is committed to raising awareness of mental health issues.

To continue its work, the charity hosts a number of fundraising events each year, including the two I was able to attend – the PCA golf day and the Team England Christmas lunch.

As soon as I arrived at Woburn Golf Club for the golf day I was put to work creating goodie bags for each of the 22 teams – something I am very used to doing ahead of events like Brains Eden and FXP that Conscious Communications runs – registering teams and signing people up to the ‘beat the pro’ competition. Working alongside the team, time flew and before I knew it the morning was over and we needed to get the teams onto the course ready for their shotgun starts. Once they were off, the afternoon was spent helping to set the venue up for the dinner, preparing the auction, and ferrying latecomers to the right tee. As with any event, the day had the odd hiccup here and there, but it was great to be able to use the kind of problem solving skills I use at work in practice to support the fund. There really is nothing like the buzz you get from seeing an event go well, especially as we know how much planning goes on in the background. The day was a huge success and it was great to be involved.

The second event I helped out with was a little different; instead of turning up to the green of a golf course I faced the gates of Lord’s cricket ground. The annual Christmas lunch is one of the biggest fundraising events of the year, when cricketers past and present join a host of representatives from a range of supporting organisations to celebrate the sport, and the charity. Again I was involved in setting up tables, checking table plans and ensuring the venue was ready for the guests’ arrival – but with the addition on this occasion of stuffing Christmas crackers with raffle tickets! The event had a truly festive feel, with all guests embracing the time of giving, including one donation of £50,000, given to the fund for educational scholarships.

I also had the opportunity to hear some of the stories from individuals who have received help from the fund, and was inspired to learn more about how much of a difference to peoples’ lives the fund’s work makes – whether it is re-building a ligament, or a life.

It was fantastic to have the opportunity to give both my time and skills to such a great charity and I hope they will have me back next year!

Our daily values reminder


It’s not what you say but what you do – leading by example (whether you’re hoping to positively influence your children, your employees, your congregation) is a successful technique for influencing others’ behaviour.  A positive role model can fuel the strength and goodness within others and motivate kind and giving behaviour, energy and passion.  Conversely, a negative role model can just as easily promote poor behaviour, demotivation, low morale and productivity in others.  A boss who shows no respect for their team will quickly leave them feeling undervalued and unmotivated.  These people have the ability to suck the energy out of an otherwise positive working environment.  At a time when foul words and thoughts appear to spring easily from the mouths of world leaders and are as easily dismissed by their followers for having no importance, it seems to us that the need for each and every one of us to focus on providing positive role models to those around us is greater than ever.

At Conscious Communications we operate by a set of values which the whole team has developed together.  They describe the way that we set out to work with each other and with our clients and suppliers on a daily basis and provide us with an anchor from which to measure our activity.  They ensure that we not only do right by our clients but that we also do right by each other and those working and living around us:

Respect – for our clients and business partners, the environment, local communities and each other

Responsibility – committed to delivering what we promise

Integrity – honesty and openness, where our behaviour matches what we say

Investment – in our continuous learning and development ensuring we deliver innovative and creative solutions

Commitment – striving to ensure we not only deliver quality but we exceed expectations each and every time

Appreciation – we listen to and value others’ contributions and are thankful for their support while offering the same in return

This year, to give us a daily reminder of these values being the things that bind us together and make our work worthwhile, we invested in a small Christmas present for ourselves in the form of these stick note blocks!


Supporting the elderly and the young


Senior PR and Marketing Executive, Sophie, discusses why she chose two different charities for her volunteering days, in our second post of our volunteering blog series.

Last year’s John Lewis’ #ManOnTheMoon Christmas advert struck a chord with me. It registered with me that while I would be sitting at the dining room table with my family on Christmas Day, tucking into a roast dinner, there are elderly people that have no family and will be on their own at this time of year. It was this advert that made me decide that I wanted to spend one of my volunteer days with a charity that is dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people.

I came across Contact the Elderly, a charity that organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people aged 75 and over, who live alone. The charity services the whole of England, Wales and Scotland. So, my first stop was the charity’s main office in London back in February. I had been liasing with the communications manager, who had informed me that the charity had just finished its huge campaign with Bisto called Spare Chair Sunday; a project that allows people to offer a spare chair at their Sunday lunch to an older person who would have otherwise been eating alone.

A third of people over the age of 70 in the UK eat alone every day

The campaign had been hugely successful, and the charity received thousands of volunteers.  So, when I turned up to the main office, I spent the day sifting through hundreds of applications, and inputting the information into an internal database. Even though the charity’s main office was in London, the team was really small, so my time at Contact the Elderly felt extremely valuable. It really showed me the importance of volunteers to a charity – no matter how large or small. I had a fantastic time with the team, and have kept in touch with them since.

Following my first volunteer day, I decided that I wanted to spend my second day with a charity a little closer to home, which impacts my local area. I approached Carers Trust Cambridgeshire in October to find out a little more about the charity, and I was thrilled to hear that they would be pleased to receive a day of voluntary work, which I undertook this week.

Carers Trust Cambridgeshire is a network partner of Carers Trust and provides services and help for family carers and their families across the county. I was liaising with the Young Carers and Young Adult Carers team based in St. Ives, who had mentioned that they would like my advice and support on how to best launch a new campaign in the New Year.

My morning started with a meeting with the head of the department and the volunteering co-ordinator, who explained how the team supports young carers across the county. The team support young carers as young as five years old, which left me feeling very sad but motivated to maximise the opportunity to support the team. The staff are so enthusiastic about what they do which I found incredibly inspiring.

I spent the majority of the morning brainstorming ideas around a press launch and the supporting marketing activity that could be implemented to ensure the new project is a success. In the afternoon, I pulled my thoughts and ideas into a plan and presented the ideas to the team. I was pleased to learn that they liked my ideas, which are now with the senior management team for consideration.

The team at Carers Trust Cambridgeshire has since asked if the Conscious Communications team can come back in the New Year to further brainstorm ideas, to which we gladly accepted.  The request made me realise how much they valued my time – even though it was just a day – and how much every little thing really does help! I had such a wonderful time with the charity that I would definitely like to further support them in 2017, and even perhaps use my two volunteer days with them next year too!

The giving of time at the time for giving

Winston Churchill said “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give”, and no truer word was ever said.  There are, of course, different degrees of giving but the most rewarding of all is the kind that comes from the heart with genuine good intent.

It is also often the giving of time, expertise and energy that is most valuable; the positive impact of material things can be short-lived, while the commitment to providing support, so that others can build a better future for themselves, is more profound and lasting.

Through our work in education and, in particular, with schools with in communities where aspiration and life chances are limited only by the accident of birth, we are humbled by the unstinting commitment and ‘giving’ of school staff for whom teaching is not just a job but a vocation and a passion, and who choose to dedicate their time to helping children to find their way to a positive and fulfilling adulthood through education.  Here our work isn’t about feel-good gifts that have no long-term worth.  It’s about dedicating time, expertise and resource to developing initiatives and innovations that will have a lasting positive impact.

One such initiative in its early development stages in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is involving schools, colleges and industry in collaborating to provide a comprehensive package of combined technical/vocational and academic qualifications through the International Baccalaureate’s Career-related Programme (CP).  This is a truly remarkable and transformational new programme which is achieving phenomenal success in Kent schools and which we want to see made available for our children in the East of England.  So our team is working hard, on our own time, to bring all the relevant parties together so that by 2018 a CP programme, relevant to our high growth industry sectors, can be made available.

In Cambridge we have some of the UK’s most exciting technology and creative digital businesses – ARM, Frontier Developments, Jagex and Sony Interactive Entertainment to name a few.  These businesses are growing fast and attracting talented programmers, designers, artists and writers to our city, yet there are many young people in our local schools who are unaware of the future career opportunities these businesses offer and who will remain that way if engagement between education and industry doesn’t improve – what a potential waste of local talent and opportunity!  We want this to change, so last year we set up our own pilot project – FXP Festival, designed to upskill teachers, inspire students, and forge closer links between schools and game development companies.  We learned valuable lessons through the pilot which helped us to refine the Festival concept and materials and get ready to roll the concept out to schools all over the country in 2017.

This all means we now have our work cut out but the enthusiasm our team has for these initiatives stems from their genuine purpose and the truism of Churchill’s words.

New hope for those excluded

Department for Education data shows that the number of exclusions from UK state schools is increasing year on year.  During the school year 2014-15, 5,800 children were removed from mainstream schools.  Disruptive behaviour is the most common reason for these exclusions and over 80% of them are from secondary schools. The majority of people remain blissfully unaware of the  alternative provisions that exist for these excluded children – somehow disruptive children disappear and we assume they’ve been moved to another more suitable school.

So you can be forgiven for not having heard of TBAP the first multi-academy trust providing alternative provision education in the UK.  It was founded just three years ago as a tri-borough alternative provision in London and provides education for children who have experienced difficulties with their learning and behaviour in mainstream school.  There are both primary and secondary TBAP schools (up to GCSE) and the trust is growing fast – we now have one in Cambridge which takes referrals from schools across the city and surrounding villages.

The key to TBAP’s success appears to be a mixture of excellent teaching, small well-supported classes, and a broad curriculum. TBAP says that it works closely with ‘families and outside agencies to give learners the skills and resilience they need to be safe, to raise their expectation of themselves as successful citizens, and to encourage them to be life-long learners’. Working with the International Baccalaureate (IB) as we do, this sounds remarkably familiar and so we were intrigued to be able to visit the new TBAP post-16 alternative provision Academy in London to find out more.

Considering the education history and family circumstances of the majority of excluded children, the enormity of the task their teachers face shouldn’t be underestimated.  Yet chaotic family backgrounds are no reason to assume that these children are not as academically able as any others.  In many cases their lives outside of school have been such that they haven’t had enough time in school to know where their interests or strengths lie.  It is this understanding, coupled with a hefty amount of determination and compassion that has led to the opening of the first TBAP post-16 AP Academy which opened to its 17 students this September, all of whom have come from other non-mainstream and alternative provision school settings.

It is shocking to know that this is the very first post-16 alternative provision in this country.  That, in itself, is quite something but, get this,TBAP’s post-16 AP Academy is not teaching A-Levels, it’s exclusively teaching the IB Diploma Programme.  The Academy is catering for children who, despite having been excluded, have shown that they possess the ability, desire and capability to progress to university if the right teaching, support and educational context is available.  And it is the breadth of the IB’s programme that makes it so suitable for these learners.

So, these students could be classed as the lucky ones, but if they can prove the school to be a success, why couldn’t or wouldn’t it be replicated elsewhere?  Consider for a minute, the story of one learner we heard about while we visited – she is just 16 years old, has no family home and no relatives to rely on.  She lives in a room in a hostel and fends for herself with no one to help her with homework and few positive influences around her.  For this young person, the school is literally a life-line but it will still take all of her internal strength, and the skill and support of the school’s staff, to achieve success at the end of the two years.

We met some of the school’s new students when we visited.  They spoke animatedly about the journey ahead of them, describing with remarkable foresight how hard they will need to study and how difficult that will undoubtedly be.  One of the young men we met wants to run his own business one day, another has ambitions of being a doctor.

Can you imagine what these young people have the potential to do? They have endured (and still endure) some of the worst of what life and society throw at them.  They will now receive an education designed to equip them to be open-minded, principled, caring, inquirers, risk-takers, reflective, and able to engage with people in an increasingly globalised, rapidly changing world.  Hopefully they will use their education to work their way into powerful and influential positions in the world and, armed with the knowledge of personal experience, be able to influence politics, economics, the arts, medicine, human rights, and much more, for the better.

Boobie bakes to bus behinds

Our Head of Client Teams, Zoë, discusses her time at Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust in our first post of our volunteering blog series.


As part of our company’s commitment to social responsibility we are proud to offer each team member two paid days each year to volunteer and work with charitable causes (you can read more about how and why we give back to our local and wider communities in our recent article in Stylist). This year I chose to approach Addenbrooke’s Hospital about volunteering for two days – we like to be flexible in our approach so can offer a half day here or a full day there – to fit around our work schedules and any specific projects or campaigns that an organisation needs help with.

I wanted to support Addenbrooke’s after I received such outstanding care there last year following a car accident – from the first responder and the paramedics who sought me out in A&E later in the day to the nurses on the ward and the surgeon who performed the surgery I needed on my arm. Considering it was such a traumatic experience I do remember the people who cared for me with great appreciation and I k


The MarComms office is located next to the newer buildings on the Biomedical Campus – which is looking particularly appealing in the autumn light!

now that the majority of people living in the region will know of someone who has been treated or cared for at this hospital. I wanted to give back in some way so I approached the hospital directly – understandably for volunteers on the wards, for example, they need on-going commitment to regular days each week for a set amount of time. Next stop for me was Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT), the

only registered charity dedicated to supporting innovation in patient care across Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie hospitals.


Branded Stagecoach bus promoting Addenbrooke’s Breast Cancer Appeal

I had of course heard of ACT before and have even met with the fundraising team a couple of years ago when we were setting up a corporate partnership for one of our own clients but I was keen to learn more about the different activities they are involved with and how this in turn helps the departments of the hospitals. I was put in touch with the Marketing and Communications Team who (thankfully!) were pleased to receive the offer of two days voluntary work which I undertook at the end of October.

Hearing first hand from the Community Fundraising Manager about the need for more community ambassadors was essential for my first task – creating a communications plan to increase the roll of community ambassadors for the next 12 months. Next up was a visit to the branded Stagecoach bus which was parked up near the hospital promoting the Addenbrooke’s Breast Cancer Appeal. This year ACT has been encouraging individuals, groups and companies to host a ‘boobie cake bake’ on Friday 21 October to support the thousands of local, inspirational women and men who demonstrate a life-affirming spirit in their daily battle against cancer. Thanks to Stagecoach and Mr Hugh’s (producers of infused oils), members of the public could get their hands on their own infused oils to help their next ‘boobie bake’ as the bus made stops at all of the Park & Ride sites throughout the day.

I was also asked to help brainstorm ideas to spread the reach of two upcoming events – the Annual Lecture & Reception and the popular Rudolph Run, which takes place in December.

My time at ACT solidified my thinking that Addenbrooke’s offers care and help to people of all ages, shapes and sizes with all ailments and injuries, needing the most advanced care and equipment, and it is up to us, as members of the public, to offer our time to help – whether it’s an afternoon a week or two days a year – every little counts! To be able to transfer my skills which I use in my day to day work to a real life project for a charity was extremely rewarding and I hope to be able to offer my time again soon.


Stepping back to the 90s

throwback to the 90s image

Alison, our Managing Director, reminisces on the PR industry and how it has changed over the years.

Screening of the new Absolutely Fabulous movie (or Ab Fab as many of us would know it) has prompted an indulgent reflection on the past 20-plus years of the PR industry and the changes therein. Based loosely on well-known characters in the PR agency world at the time, as well as the supposed antics of members of Bananarama, the series, while painting a caricature of the industry, points to some of the reasons why the PR industry developed a few of the less savoury elements of its reputation through the 80s and 90s.

The jocundity of Eddie and Patsy’s world seems a ridiculous parody of a serious industry that generates many billions of dollars worldwide, in fact some $14bn at the last count. So how representative of the reality of those times is Ab Fab?

Imagine for a minute the challenge of media relations without the internet, email or social media.  The importance of face-to-face contact and strong personal relationships with journalists still can’t be underestimated but in those days, when the telephone, Royal Mail and an unreliable fax machine were the only forms of remote communication, the long-lunch had a very important purpose, for both PRs and journalists. It signalled the chance for PR people to build and maintain valuable working relationships (and friendships) that would reap benefits for their clients; and, for the journalists, the chance to get several good news stories for their pages (remember it was only print in those days!) in one meeting.  Editorial teams were larger and journalists were expected to spend more time out of the office than they are afforded today.  Press releases arrived by post, and would have to be re-typed of course, ready for laying out on the page, so a story gathered first hand and typed straight from a journalist’s short-hand notes was much more efficient.  Also, of course, they were more likely to get a valuable scoop after a few Spritzers!

The long liquid lunches of old are well and truly gone now, and the work-hard-play-hard ethos that was undoubtedly true of the time, is no longer expected or accepted, even in the still colourful fashion PR agencies of today. 20 years ago, young PRs were expected to work long hours, for little reward, so ‘happy hour’ at the local wine bar was a well-deserved break from the graft, as well as a good team bonding and contact sharing opportunity – no email, intranet or Slack in those days!  We still work very hard, and often days are long in PR agencies, but we undoubtedly have more emphasis on employee welfare and achieving a work-life balance.

In the early 90s it was very possible to get a foot in the door of an agency without a degree – with no more than a word processor, scissors, Tippex and a Pritt Stick, all executives had an assistant or secretary and this was a really great way to get in, learn the ropes and work your way up, fast, if you were prepared to put the hours in.  Jane Horrock’s satirical character, Bubble, is far from the reality of the hard-work and commitment required of these people, although there were undoubtedly a few twin-setted-Sloanes for whom the day-to-day reality didn’t quite match the imagined glamour of the industry.

In the 90s, for obvious reasons, it was useful to be close to the major media houses, most of which were London based. Today there is no advantage to being geographically close to Fleet Street or Southwark Street but there remains an element of misplaced client ego associated with ‘having’ a London agency.  In the 80s and 90s, agencies were expected to regularly entertain their clients, who would often travel to London for the occasion; while the agency’s creative input and black book of contacts were deemed valuable, so was the quality and quantity of alcohol they provided and claimed on client expense sheets – this was, after all, part of what the client was paying for, wasn’t it?

So, while we look back fondly on the shoulder-padded, big-haired, chain smoking, heavy drinking, air-kissing, “Darling” days, we are nonetheless glad they are long gone, and the industry’s reputation has moved on to something far more professional and strategic BUT this doesn’t mean it’s no fun anymore!  It just means the fun is maybe less damaging to your health!  There are still many big characters in our industry, it’s still a great career to choose and, at Conscious Communications, our wheels are still on fire!

Hurrah! Applause! Kudos! Three cheers for Roget’s Thesaurus!


Our Content and Communications Manager, Hannah, takes a look at Roget’s Thesaurus and its importance.

Anyone involved in writing on a regular basis will probably be familiar with the feeling of knowing what it is that you want to say, but struggling to identify the particular word that will allow you to accurately communicate the precise meaning that you have in mind.

Enter Peter Mark Roget and his ‘Thesaurus’. In 1805, Roget was a young doctor who spent a lot of time lecturing and who, feeling the need to improve his powers of expression but unable to grasp the appropriate word in any sort of timely manner, devised his own instrument to help him to do so. Initially referred to as a ‘classed catalogue of words’, this became the first thesaurus.

To those of us whose natural instinct for locating an alternative word would be to turn to an online thesaurus, we would expect to type in the word or words that we can recall, which are close to the word we are looking for but are not quite right, and the thesaurus will provide us with a multitude of alternative suggestions.

But let’s consider for a moment how this same process would have worked in Roget’s day – i.e. pre-Internet. When searching online, thesaurus.com (based on Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition) will present you with a page of words that are associated with the word you have entered. In print, this functionality is not an option. For instance, with a printed dictionary, we all know that you have to flick through the pages alphabetically to find the word that you are searching for and to read the description and variations of the word in question. However, whereas with a dictionary each word requires its own listing (as multiple words are never likely to mean precisely the same thing), a thesaurus does not index its entries alphabetically.

To list each of the entries of a thesaurus alphabetically would mean that each of the words would be reproduced many times – as many times as the word has synonyms. By repeating and reproducing these lists, using each and every word as a heading in its own right, the thesaurus would become enormous – physically – taking up significantly more space than a dictionary. By doing so, the ‘user experience’ (as we often now label this), would not be very positive and would no doubt deter many individuals from using a thesaurus at all.

In Roget’s day, using only paper and pen to keep on top of his growing encyclopaedia of words, he therefore needed to devise a system of categorising words into topics, so that each word only needed to be listed once – allowing many more words to be featured within the restricted confines of a printed reference.

Roget devised a method which groups all of the featured vocabulary under topic ‘heads’, for instance, ‘resentment’. The topic heads are then categorised further – for instance the verb ‘resent’ and the adjective ‘resentful’, under which people can find alternative suggestions for their particular requirements, e.g. anger (n), get angry (v) or angry (adj).

In the Conscious Communications office we boast a well-used, dog-eared, front-cover-less edition of Roget’s Thesaurus from 1966 (that, if you are interested to know, cost £1.75 new), which features 990 topic ‘heads’ – more modern editions may well feature more topic ‘heads’ to incorporate new trends in language as well as new topics (the Internet itself no doubt requiring new topics to be devised).

So does our team prefer to use our well-loved hard copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, or the online thesaurus.com? In the 21st century, we are afforded the best of both worlds; when we’re out and about we are able to search online for that phenomenal phrase that we can’t quite put our finger on, without missing a beat, and when we’re in the office we like to take a little more time to leaf through the hard copy to locate the exact language required. Either way, you are likely to find us singing the praises of Roget’s Thesaurus!

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