Bringing Cox’s Bazar to East London

Chloe Choppen
Chloe Choppen 4th September 2019

In August, the British Red Cross gave London’s shoppers a chance to witness life in the world’s largest refugee camp.
This immersive pop-up installation of Cox’s Bazar, along with an innovative 360˚ communications campaign, hoped to remind the public of the ongoing plight of the 740,000 refugees who were forced to flee their homes in Myanmar over 2 years ago.
During their week-long installation at Stratford’s Westfield Shopping Centre, we dropped in to speak to Farah Ghulamali, Corporate Partnerships and Communications Advisor, to hear how the campaign came together.


Q: How did you develop the idea for this campaign?

We needed to do something to re-engage the media and the public with our Myanmar Appeal, so conversations around the campaign began in January. The idea for the installation actually came from something we’d seen the Norwegian Red Cross do during their Syria campaign. They rebuilt a Syrian home in Ikea’s flagship Oslo store, juxtaposing it very effectively with the Ikea show homes.

We couldn’t take people to experience Cox’s Bazar, but this installation would be the closest we could get to helping people understand the situation, what it’s like to make the journey as a refugee and what living in a refugee camp is like. I took this idea to our international and fundraising teams, and from there we developed a brief and asked different production agencies to tender for it.


British Red Cross’s immersive installation at Westfield, London in August 2019.


Q: Who was involved in bringing the idea to life?

The production company we decided to work with are called Ministry of Fun. We haven’t worked with them before, but they had a lot of experience with theatre events and set design, which was the sort of expertise we needed. It was a mammoth operation. They were working 12 hours to rig this on Sunday night – from 6 until 6! Making sure all the tech worked and that everything was accurate to the real images and content we’d shared with them.

Our content team worked really hard to deliver all the videos and photos, and we collaborated very closely with our international team to ensure that the content was accurate. We also worked with our individual giving team to have face-to-face fundraisers on the stand, informing people about how they can continue to support the appeal long-term.


Q: Why did you choose Westfield, London?

We were looking for a public space in London, so one of our partners, JCDecaux (the advertising company), came to us with a shortlist of options. Westfield seemed like the best option for the footfall – it has nearly 1 million visitors every week – and the space size. But also for the dwell time, as we know that people have time to look around when they’re shopping. JCDecaux then negotiated a really great charity rate for us – one that Ministry of Fun could hardly believe!


Q: The pop-up installation ran from August 12th – 18th, why did you choose these dates?

We wanted to do something for the 2-year anniversary which falls on August 25th, but were keen to run the campaign slightly earlier so that we could be the first ones contacting the media. The actual date also falls over the bank holiday, so we didn’t want to miss the usual footfall because of that.


Q: How have you found the reception from the public?

The feedback has been really great – whether you already know what’s going on or not, you can’t help but be gripped by what you see. Westfield in August is a really mixed audience – family, kids and older people. It has definitely helped us reach more people who wouldn’t otherwise be aware of Red Cross’s work.


The installation followed the journey of Mohamed and Roshida, and used short videos, photography and 3D sets to bring their stories to life.


Q: How have the media responded?

It’s been good so far. We’ve had Reuters and Press Association pick it up, as well as the Mail Online. We’ve also had a lot of really interesting international coverage from Germany, Australia and Spain! It’s a very multifaceted campaign and is about so much more than just engaging with the media. We’re also fundraising and trying to raise awareness in the public eye.


Q: What impact do you hope that this campaign has?

I hope that this campaign reminds people that this is the world’s largest refugee camp. That there are 1 million people living in this camp with nowhere to go, who have been forced to flee with nothing. They have had to leave their families and livelihoods behind. Many are now having to rebuild their lives, and it’s all with the support of the humanitarian agencies that are running this camp – agencies like the Red Cross. So, it’s vital that people continue to support us.


Q: What are you doing alongside the installation to make sure you’re able to deliver the desired impact?

Our social media team are posting across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all week. We’ve also had support from Westfield’s communication channels, and a couple of our corporate partners are helping out. For example, Samsung have donated free digital ads, and WeTransfer have given us ad space on their wallpapers. We have so much content coming out of this campaign, so we knew we could deliver something really creative in the style that WeTransfer like.

We’ve also had great support from our high-value donors. We held a high-value giving event and invited our corporate prospects to come and experience the installation ahead of it opening to the public. This received some really positive feedback highlighting how the installation brought to life a lot of the work we’ve being talking about for a long time.


Q: How will you measure the impact?

We’ll measure the impact through metrics like media coverage, visits to our website and to the appeal page, donations to our appeal, social media engagement and also through the numbers of people who decide to set up a regular gift to give directly to the Myanmar appeal. For this campaign, we’re testing a new system allowing supporters to give to a specific part of the Red Cross.

Everyone is really excited about this installation, and a number of my colleagues across the UK want to take it on tour. Many of our corporate partners also want to have the installation in their offices to help staff engagement and were offering us different spaces for that. There’s so much appetite for it, and hopefully a real longevity to it!

Find out more about the British Red Cross Myanmar Appeal


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