The Chokeables has saved babies' lives – here's how we made it | St John Ambulance

The St John Ambulance video, which teaches parents how to save a choking baby, has won charity film of the year

So far, we know of 54 babies whose parents say they wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for The Chokeables, St John Ambulance’s first aid film teaching people how to help a choking baby in just 40 seconds. We’re delighted our film has won charity film of the year, announced at Bafta on 15 March. So what’s the secret of its success?

Before making the film, we carried out research that revealed parents are the people most interested in first aid and what they worry about most is their baby choking. Over 40% of parents had seen it happen, 58% said it was a serious concern and yet 79% didn’t know what to do.

Our previous campaigns had been aimed at getting people to take first aid seriously but our audiences just weren’t taking the next step and learning it.

We realised we needed to teach directly – beam the advice into parents’ lives in a way they couldn’t ignore. And the tone needed to be spot on. Parents don’t want to be browbeaten and made to feel guilty. It’s hard enough being a parent. What we needed was an upbeat, engaging, shareable lesson.

Enter the geniuses at Bartle Bogle Hegarty. They realised that the lesson would come across best if taught by common household items that could potentially choke babies – the kind of things most parents would find under their sofas, like a toy or a pen lid. They crafted a script around the idea that these characters were so fed up with babies choking on them that they have decided to teach parents what to do.

We used animation to make the topic less scary, and pulled in the big guns with David Walliams and Johnny Vegas voicing the characters.

This was all quite a feat considering the film needed to be 40 seconds long. Our tip with charity films is the shorter the better, to get as many people as possible watching to the end, but also so we could air it on TV in a cost-effective way.

I wanted a name for the campaign to help parents connect with the characters, and identify the campaign easily so it could trend on social media. Heaps of chocolate and one brainstorm later, The Chokeables was born.

When it came to sharing and promoting the film, we developed close relationships with key media to help create a buzz before we released the video. We focused in particular on those who could help us reach a high proportion of parents, such as ITV’s Good Morning Britain and Mumsnet, as well as nationals like MailOnline and the Mail on Sunday. Facebook was crucial as mums use it to share parenting tips, and we also worked with the mums who’d saved their babies thanks to The Chokeables so that even more parents could find out what to do.

Social media was key and we created a Thunderclap so people could mass share the video, flashmob style, as well as social media competitions to increase further engagement, such as a messy baby photo competition with first aid kit prizes. We also produced a whole suite of baby first aid advice videos to inspire further learning.

We entered The Chokeables into the inaugural Charity Film Awards, when entries opened in 2015. The awards have been set up to recognise the best videos created by or on behalf of UK charities, whether for raising awareness, changing attitudes and behaviours or fundraising. Over 375 charities entered for the first round of public voting. More than 43,000 people voted and the resulting shortlist went to a panel of judges. They whittled it down to the finalists, including household names such as the RSPCA, Barnardo’s, the RNLI, Alzheimer’s Society and Great Ormond Street children’s hospital.

A second round of public voting for the people’s choice award has seen more than 66,000 people vote for the winner – the Soi Dog Foundation’s film about Cola the dog, who was given custom-made prosthetics after his front legs were amputated.

To win the overall award for film of the year for The Chokeables is just incredible. We’d put everything into this and hoped it would make an impact, but the success has knocked us sideways. Not only have we taught millions of people how to help a choking baby but it’s helped people feel that St John Ambulance is relevant to their lives.

The video continues to receive millions of views whenever it’s re-posted on social media. I love these stats but nothing beats getting a message from a mum who has saved their baby thanks to our video. There’s no greater reward than knowing we’ve reassured parents and helped all those babies.

  • Emma Sheppard is head of communications, St John Ambulance. The Chokeables won film of the year at the 2016 Charity Film Awards.

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Emma Sheppard

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