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Curtain and Blind Cord Campaign

Client: 

Consumer Affairs Victoria (Department of Justice)

PR Company: 

Consumer Affairs Victoria (Department of Justice)

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2010 C1 - 4

Year: 

2010

Executive Summary: 

Unsafe curtain and blind cords kill Australian children. Since 2000, at least eight have died after being strangled by looped cords, including two Victorians late last year. Many more have been seriously injured.

To combat this issue, Consumer Affairs Victoria encouraged Victorian parents to request a free safety kit to make their curtain and blind cords safe.

The campaign distributed more than 17,000 kits, helping to make those Victorian homes safer from deadly hazards posed by loose curtain and blind cords. The campaign exceeded its objective – to generate orders for 5000 kits - by 240%.

Situation Analysis: 

Looped blind and curtain cords have claimed the lives of at least eight children since 2000, including two Victorians within two-months in late 2009.

The loop on these cords presents a significant strangulation hazard for babies and young children. They can inadvertently become entangled and strangle themselves.

Despite the government changing the law in December 2008 to make all new curtain and blind cords safe, unsafe cords remain in Victorian homes.  Without action from Consumer Affairs Victoria – the state’s key consumer protection agency - these unsafe cords would remain for many years to come, posing a deadly hazard to children across the state.

Research undertaken for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reveals a high awareness among Australian parents about the strangulation risk unsafe cords present; however, awareness of ways to fix the problem is low[1]. Consumer Affairs Victoria’s campaign aims to bridge this gap.

Replacing all curtain and blind in all Victorian homes would be costly and unrealistic, but simple and cheap solutions are available to remove the strangulation hazard.

[1] Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (2009), Blind and curtain cord pre campaign evaluation research, pp8

Research: 

A mix of primary and secondary research about the audience, situation and organisation shaped the campaign.

Our formative research included:

  • numerical data of the past 10 years from the Coroner’s office regarding deaths resulting from curtain and blind cord strangulation. This revealed children aged between eight months and six years were most at risk, helping establish the campaign’s target audience.
  • desktop research on similar campaigns. This helped build on the successes of similar campaigns and set a realistic target. We concluded that media relations alone would not achieve adequate results.
  • quantitative research undertaken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Just over half of respondents to this study had unsafe curtain or blind cords in their homes. In addition, knowledge about the dangers of cords was very high – but awareness of solutions to minimise the dangers was low[2]. This intelligence focussed our campaign’s call to action on encouraging take-up of a safety kit that solves the problem, rather than encouraging audiences to fix it themselves.
  • discussions with ministerial offices, program managers and key internal decision makers. This helped identify how the campaign aligned with political and organisational priorities, what the expectations were and what resources to allocate.
  • focus groups with parents of children aged eight months to six years. This tested our communication approaches, identified additional distribution channels and informed us about our target audience (such as reactions to approaches, barriers, motivations and preferred communication channels)[3]. We revised our communication approach based on this intelligence.
  • discussions with industry experts. Discussions with curtain and blind retail chains and hardware stores helped identify campaign issues from the industry’s perspective before any activities commenced. For example, we
  • identified a significant lack of knowledge around staff awareness of safety devices. Our communication activities to industry won the their support for promoting the campaign through their stores, educated staff about the safety devices and encouraged them to stock alternatives (to cater for cords not suited to our campaign safety device). 
  • an audit of all devices available to prevent cord strangulation hazards. Coupled with industry feedback, this audit helped us select the most appropriate devices for use in the campaign safety kits. The device we selected caters for the majority of cords in Victorian homes[4].

We monitored the effectiveness of the campaign daily, based on the amount of safety kit orders. From these orders, we could identify how consumers found out about the kits, so we could focus more of our promotional efforts on the most effective channels or activities.

[2] Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (2009), Blind and curtain cord pre campaign evaluation research, pp13

[3] Open Mind Research Group (2010), Blind and curtain cords campaign: pilot research project, pp10, 14, 16, 23 conducted for Consumer Affairs Victoria

[4] According to verbal feedback from industry experts

Target Policies: 

Primary target

Parents with children aged between eight months and six years were our primary target, because this age group is most at risk of strangulation[5].

We ensured our campaign appealed particularly among women from low socioeconomic backgrounds, because:

  • women are significantly more likely than men to be aware of fatalities caused by loose and looped cords[6]
  • women from low socioeconomic backgrounds have more children than women from areas of high socio-economic advantage[7].

While the opinions and attitudes of mothers differ greatly, our qualitative research helped identify common characteristics, motivations and potential barriers to this audience requesting the safety kits[8].

Secondary targets

  • Grandparents
  • Carers

These target groups are likely to have children visit their home – therefore, there is a strong need to make their cords safe.

Stakeholders

  • Ambulance Victoria
  • Family day care coordinators
  • Kidsafe Victoria
  • Local government agencies
  • Maternal and child health centres
  • Maternity hospitals
  • Minister for Consumer Affairs
  • Office of the Child Safety Commissioner
  • Traders – including curtain and blind retailers, hardware stores, manufacturers and installers
  • Window Coverings Association of Australia

[5] Victorian Coroner’s Office

[6] Open Mind Research Group (2009), Blind and curtain cord pre campaign evaluation research, pp8, conducted for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

[7] Australian Government, Families in Australia 2008 (2008), pp 16 accessed from http://www.dpmc.gov.au/publications/families/docs/Families_in_Australia_08_chapter3.rtf

[8] Open Mind Research Group (2010), Blind and curtain cords campaign: pilot research project, pp10, conducted for Consumer Affairs Victoria

Communication Strategy: 

In line with the campaign’s goal and objective, our key messages portrayed the risk up front, followed by a solution.

“Loose curtain and blind cords can strangle children.

Request a free safety kit from Consumer Affairs Victoria – visit consumer.vic.gov.au or call 1300 55 81 81.”

After analysing our research, our communication strategy focussed on:

  • changing awareness into action – we provided a tangible solution to eliminate the danger, as awareness about the issue was already high but awareness of ways to mitigate the risk was low
  • using existing channels and trusted sources of information to reach parents with our message, as these sources tested well with our audience[9]
  • partnering curtain and blind retailers, supermarkets and hardware stores – we could not afford to give a ‘one-size-fits-all’ safety device solution to suit every unique cord in Victoria, so we needed somewhere consumers could purchase safety devices to suit their cords. We also knew these partnerships would work as effective communication channels, given our audience told us they would expect to see our campaign promoted through these organisations[10]
  • partnering a television network offering significant advertising savings in return for recognition on campaign collateral and a modest financial contribution. This approach worked well for previous government campaigns and achieved significant advertising savings for ours
  • ongoing issues management. We knew there were inherent risks associated with this campaign, due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.

The campaign did not rely purely on media relations, as similar campaigns using this approach did not achieve high results.

[9] Open Mind Research Group (2010), Blind and curtain cords campaign: pilot research project, pp29, conducted for Consumer Affairs Victoria

[10] Open Mind Research Group (2010), Blind and curtain cords campaign: pilot research project, pp29, conducted for Consumer Affairs Victoria

Implementation: 

We implemented the campaign from 28 January to 1 April 2010, with the bulk of media activity throughout four weeks from 17 February.

  • Strategy one: Change awareness into action
    We devised a safety kit from scratch, featuring five devices (suitable for five curtain/blind cords), screws and an instruction leaflet[11]. This provided a free and tangible solution to eliminate the danger. The campaign’s call to action focussed on encouraging Victorians to request this free safety kit.
  • Strategy two: Use existing channels and trusted sources of information
    We sent letters and collateral (order forms and posters) to: schools, local councils, maternal and child health centres, childcare centres, kindergartens, local councils, hospital maternity wards, Members of Parliament and real estate agents, encouraging them to support the campaign by distributing collateral through their networks. See appendix A.

    In addition, we used:

    • prep packs – we included order forms in bags distributed to every prep in Victorian schools on their first day (children give this bag to their parents)
    • social media avenues like Facebook, blogs and other parenting/childcare forums
    • internal communications - a specific campaign encouraged Consumer Affairs and Department of Justice staff to order a free safety kit
    • in-store promotions – our shopfront, the Victorian Consumer and Business Centre (113 Exhibition Street, Melbourne), and regional offices all featured campaign collateral
    • consumer information seminars – on product safety matters conducted by Consumer Affairs staff to consumers
    • media relations – publicity through metropolitan and local media was secured across print, TV, online and radio[12]. 
  • Strategy three: Partner curtain and blind retailers, supermarkets and hardware stores
    We displayed our campaign collateral (posters and order forms) throughout hardware stores, supermarkets and retailers.Wealso encouraged these stores to stock alternative devices.
  • Strategy four: Partner a television network offering significant advertising savings
    We established a partnership with Network Ten. This involved producing a TV advertisement, interviews on morning programs like The Circle, recruitment of talent Nicole Livingstone and media placement across shows frequently watched by our audience - in return for a modest financial contribution and recognition on campaign collateral. We gained an extra $55,000 worth of bonus media activity through this partnership[13]. We also advertised on radio stations catering for culturally and linguistically diverse communities[14].
  • Strategy five: Ongoing issues management
    A key point identified in our issues management plan was criticism that our kits did not cater for all types of cords. We suspected this may be an issue and confirmed this through our primary research[15].  To mitigate this we managed expectations that our safety kit catered only for looped curtain and blind cords attached to wooden window frames. We also encouraged hardware stores and retailers to stock appropriate safety devices.  

[11] See appendix A for photographs of safety kits

[12] See appendix A for media relations coverage summary

[13] See appendix A for TV advertisement

[14] See appendix A for radio advertisement script

[15] Open Mind Research Group (2010), Blind and curtain cords campaign: pilot research project, pp17, conducted for Consumer Affairs Victoria

Results: 

By exceeding its objective, the campaign has achieved its goal of educating Victorian consumers about the risk of strangulation associated with curtain and blind cords and ways to mitigate this risk.

By requesting safety kits, 17,000 Victorians have proven they:

  • understand the strangulation risk associated with unsafe curtain and blind cords
  • recognise our safety kits as a way of mitigating this risk.

Objective

Result

To encourage at least 5000 Victorians to request a free safety kit from Consumer Affairs by April 2010

17,000 Victorians requested free safety kits

The campaign also:

  • received $55,000 worth of bonus media airtime through its TV partnership. This advertising partnership generated approximately 40% of safety kit orders
  • won the support of schools, real estate agents, childcare centres, kindergartens and local councils in spreading the message. Collectively these organisations generated 26% of individual orders
  • received more than 25 media hits across TV, radio and print mediums.

Evaluation: 

The campaign exceeded its target for generating orders for curtain and blind cord safety kits by 240%.

 

Objective

Outcome

Success

To encourage at least 5000 Victorians to request a free safety kit from Consumer Affairs by April 2010

17,000 Victorians requested free safety kits from Consumer Affairs Victoria by April 2010

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