TUESDAY 22 SEP 2015 10:11 AM


Social responsibility, creative agencies and inventiveness are an oft-cited combination for the promotion of social causes; the latest innovation by marketing solutions agency Cheil UK is no exception.

Harnessing the power of social media, the company has contributed to the latest design festival at Somerset House, London. Born out of a Twitter competition to demonstrate the power of tweets, its tweet-powered sculpture intends to raise awareness on the restrictions homosexual males in the UK face when donating blood. Current UK law states that gay men are allowed to donate blood only under the proviso that they have not engaged in sexual intercourse over the preceding year.

With Argentina lifting its blanket ban on men identifying as gay or bisexual donating blood in the past two days as a result of a decade-long movement by LGBT rights groups across the country, grassroots pressure is mounting on the UK government to do the same.

The design created for Somerset House features a fluid-filled rainbow coloured flag form; when viewers tweet the hashtag #PutRedBack, a drop of red liquid falls into the top layer of the flag which has been left clear.

When 100,000 tweets have been sent, the originally clear top layer will be completely red, the idea being to add a red stripe back into the original rainbow. Visitors will also be encouraged to sign the putredback.com petition started by Freedom to Donate, with a view to encourage parliament debate on the current restrictive blood donation guidelines.

Cheil UK’s dual approach of digital social outreach and political lobbying can be combined to fall under the umbrella of ‘corporate political advocacy’. Human rights and corporate engagement have a history of involvement, particularly with prominent brands. Recent legislation legalising same-sex marriage across the USA was backed prominently by progressive firms such as Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, as well as the coffee giant Starbucks. Google and Microsoft also advanced this social and political cause. By shifting consumer focus from activity to value, the organisation will increases its responsibility to maximise social good in the public eye.

The drive by Cheil UK is considered particularly important given the 40% drop in UK blood donations over the past ten years. The NHS needs around 204,000 new volunteers this year to ensure the nation’s blood stocks remain at a level deemed ‘safe’ for the service to continue running.

Matt Pye, chief operating officer at Cheil UK, says, “This is an issue which was brought into sharper focus when it was revealed one of our people was turned away from donating blood because of existing guidelines. We hope to use our creativity to shine a light on the issue and give people a way of expressing their desire for change. Twitter is part of our everyday lives and #PutRedBack demonstrates the power that tweets can have to encourage this change.”