Why viral videos are the way forward for the NHS

We are currently working on great project for Haemnet – a network for health care professionals who treat people with inherited bleeding disorders. It is a totally free service that provides a secure online space in which members can share information and experience about the care of people with bleeding disorders. Membership is open to specialist nurses, physiotherapists, data managers and social workers. You can visit the site at www.haemnet.com.

The NHS is always looking for new ways to spread public health messages and the project has prompted us to think about how we can take advantage of online video to disseminate healthcare messaging and reach and inform a larger audience. Video is one of the most powerful ways to reach people and if the idea is right you can connect on an intellectual and emotional level. Through a little research we found a useful article on The Guardian online which highlighted a couple of key case study campaigns.

The article opens with the reminder of one of the first acts of the coalition government back in 2010, when they slashed government advertising, although they made an exception for two campaigns on dementia and strokes.


“Hot Drinks Harm” – North Bristol NHS Trust

North Bristol hospital hosts the South West Children’s Burns Centre and has used video to spread awareness of the thousands of children every year who are injured by hot drinks. Their ‘Hot Drinks Harm’ campaign depicts a small boy pulling a cup of tea onto himself while his mother’s back is turned, causing him to suffer severe scalding on his cheek. The aim of the film was to raise awareness of the consequences of leaving hot drinks around children and, using social media, to get it disseminated as widely as possible.

Dr Amber Young, consultant paediatric anaesthetist at the centre, says “If you put a bland video up with education facts and figures, people aren’t going to use some of their valuable time to watch that. It’s got to be something that hooks them”. The video, which was created on a budget of £2,500 and used trainees from the City of Bristol college to do the make-up, has gone on to get nearly 14,000 views since it was published in 2011.


“Condom, No Condom?”

A year earlier an interactive series of videos launched to encourage young people to wear contraception. Created by primary care trust NHS Bristol and England’s NHS Choices website the video allowed viewers to decide whether a young male party-goer would wear a condom or not, before showing the consequences of his decision, which included pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The video received almost 2million views, in part as a result of extensive media coverage after the Daily Mail ran a story branding the video as ‘pornographic’. However, with such traffic, the cost of the videos worked out less than 2p per visit, compared to around £32 for a face-to-face visit to a GP.


“Teenage Pregnancy Video” NHS Leicester City

Another example of NHS video campaigns hitting the headlines was NHS Leicester City primary care trust’s video in May 2009 of a young girl giving birth on a school field. The unbranded video, which was produced to look like amateur mobile phone footage, attracted huge amounts of press coverage and was removed by YouTube after 24 hours after receiving hundreds of complaints.

“It was the most shocking viral video any NHS has produced locally, even regionally, and because we had done our research with the young people and knew what they wanted, we hit are target market just right,” says Richard Morris, associate director of communications and engagement at NHS Leicester City. “This was a ‘social marketing campaign’ so it’s not about what we think is right or appropriate, it’s about the evidence we gained from our research about listening to our target audience, and producing something that gets them interested in key health messages in a discreet way.”

Costing £20,000 to produce, the video targeted girls, young people not in education, employment or training (Neets) and those in the west of the city, a pregnancy hot spot. It had been viewed 2m times by June 2009.

Article taken from the Guardian Online.

Television: The New Drama Kings

February 2014, weeks away from the Oscars, the most prestiges award in the filmmaking world, and yet i’m not that excited. Don’t get me wrong there has been some truly excellent cinema in the year gone by, watching Scorsese’s adrenaline fuelled epic Wolf of Wall Street was certainty a personal highlight. But it in the words of a recent Ron Burgundy anti-piracy advert the cinema is now the “shimmering pretender to televisions crown”. As James Wolcott of Vanity Fair points out, “when it comes to inventive comedy (Modern Family, 30 Rock), complex heroines (Damages, Weeds), and finely textured drama (Mad Men, Downton Abbey), the action has left the cineplex and headed for broadcast and cable”.

This transformation or coming of age did not happen over night and can be tracked back to the late 1990’s when a relatively unknown actor by the name James Gandolfini was cast as Tony Soprano in HBO’s new series The Sopranos. The show opened the doors to a revolution in TV Production as Gandolfini went on to become an iconic anti-hero. The show was ambitious and pushed the boundaries of audience tolerance whilst subverting traditional television storytelling. In her article ‘How Tony Soprano Changed Television‘ Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker says it best,

“He had a lot of space to build the role—six seasons—and he fully inhabited every corner from the beginning, sometimes as a great comedian, sometimes as a self-pitying monster, but always as a radical and new sort of character for television, one who punished the audience for loving him”.

Since the launch 0f The Sopranos in 1999 there has been a proliferation of television shows that have risen to the fore. The Wire (2000-2008), Six Feet Under (2001-2006), Weeds (2005-2012), Dexter (2006-2013), Mad Men (2007-present), True Blood (2008 -Present) Breaking Bad (2008-2013), Treme (2010-present), Boardwalk Empire (2010-present), Game of Thrones (2011-present) and Homeland (2011 -Present) are just a handful of shows that have taken our small screen by storm. One of the main advantages of screenwriting for Television is the time allowed for character development. Writers are able to let the drama breath, to linger and to get better with age. In doing so, television characters are afforded more depth and we are slowly spoon fed their flaws and over time we become connected to them emotionally as we crave their redemption. You would be hard pressed to find this amount of depth in the majority of films a the cinema right now. You only have to look at the dark past of characters such as Mad Man‘s Don Draper or Dexter’s Dexter Morgan or at the ruthless ingenuity of Breaking Bad’s Walter White. Watching these complex, often tortured souled individuals grow and develop whilst in constant search of redemption is just fascinating. As Brett Martin observes in his book ‘Difficult Men’

“One cold winter’s evening in January 2002, Tony Soprano went missing and a small portion of the universe ground to a halt. It did not completely out of the blue. Ever since The Sopranos has debuted in 1999, turning Tony – anxiety-prone dad, New Jersey mobster, suburban seeker of meaning-into a millennial pop culture icon, the character’s frustration, volatility, and anger had often been indistinguishable from the qualities of James Gandolfini, the actor who brought them to life. Th role was a punishing one, requiring not only vast amounts of nightly memorisation and long days under hot lights, but also a daily descent into Tony’s psyche-at the best of times a worrisome place to dwell; at the worst, ugly, violent and sociopathic”.

The rise in digital streaming services such as NetFlix and Love Film and the falling price of DVD box sets has also contributed to Televisions cause. Back in 2000, when DVDs where in their infancy, you could pay anything upwards of £60 for a single season of your most beloved show. Fourteen years on and you can now purchase the entire six seasons of HBO’s The Sopranos for just fifty pounds which works out at less than ten pounds per season – a bargain for sure!

I have to admit I was a late comer to Breaking Bad and with NetFlix offering all five seasons plus many more great TV shows and films for just £5.99 per month it seems silly not to take advantage. The way we consume our entertainment is rapidly changing and evolving – we embraced DVD they same way embraced Blu-Ray, in time we will make the shift to 4K Television and with true HD quality imagery at home and the rise of digital streaming will you want to go to the cinema? Time will tell but until then we will have to make do with the mobile phones, the rustling and the loud-mouthed teenagers spoiling our entertainment.