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  • Physical 1

It doesn't have to happen

Client: Home Office
Brand: Home Office

Background & Challenges:

To connect with the hard-to-reach youth audiences in order to make them consider the consequences of carrying a knife and so reconsider their attitude to carrying.

The past two years has seen an ever-increasing number of incidents involving young people and knives. Subsequent media coverage has made some of the tragedies very high-profile and highlighted an issue that was growing in importance for the public.


In the light of some detailed research into the target audience, RKCR/Y&R and the Home Office decided to embark on a campaign that was driven by peer-to-peer communication in order to make messages that would be more credible. This research created a new insight into the segmentation and identified a group known as ‘fearfuls’ – the more reluctant participants, who were more likely to be receptive to this kind of message versus their ‘hardcore’ (leader) peers.

However, as this is a notoriously hard-to-reach audience, a new type of approach was needed and so, a creative summit was organised (together with Uproar and MGOMD) that brought together 18 talented 14-18 year olds from around the country. These young people all came from troubled backgrounds, had been excluded from mainstream education and most pertinently, felt the threat of knife use – some, by feeling the need to carry them themselves or running with a crowd that did; others who had lost friends or family to a knife attack; and those who had been victims themselves.

Creative Solution:

At the summit, they worked closely with teams from RKCR/Y&R to investigate the core objective of how to make themselves and their peers think twice before picking up a knife – the simple fact being that if you carry a knife, you are more likely to have one turned on you. Out of this collaboration was born the ‘It Doesn’t Have To Happen’ campaign.

The over-arching truth that we learnt from their input was that this group of people are only affected by harsh reality – if we can’t speak to them in their language we might as well not speak to them at all. We needed to take the risk and create communications that tell the truths (and consequences) about knives. They needed to engage immediately, sometimes through shame,  through self-identification or through sheer horror. The creative is a translation of their ideas. Everything has come from the target audience’s perspective because it was written by the target audience themselves.

The virals were distributed via Bluetooth, Youtube and the campaign BEBO profile  - itdoesnthavetohappen.co.uk. The radio and print has run in key cities.

The members of the summit remained involved in the campaign’s creation – some lent their voices to the radio recordings, whilst one recorded his own single in support  – and spoke eloquently at the Home Office launch. Coverage featured nationally across all media and was viewed almost universally as a genuinely fresh and inventive attempt to deal with a deep-rooted and high-profile social issue. This launch didn’t just make the news it was the news!



The digital advertising has generated over 17 million impressions whilst there are over 13000 official friends of itdoesnthavetohappen.co.uk. This innovative approach has been praised by many youth groups, mothers’ organisations, ministers and even No.10. Most importantly, it has not been met with the kind of cynicism, associated with this often disenfranchised audience, and has instead been accepted for what it is – a plea to consider the consequences of carrying knives.

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