Award-winning UK campaign to encourage organ donor registration


Freshwater worked with Donate Wales to deliver an integrated, case study-led campaign featuring a creative concept that evolved from a patient likening waiting for a transplant to being on “an invisible death row”.

The campaign was a UK-first for organ donation as it featured real people on the waiting list, rather than actors, in the adverts and campaign collateral, giving the campaign greater authenticity.

The result was a record number of organ donor registrations and a change in legislation which saw the introduction of opt-out organ donation.



new organ donation registrations


increase in website traffic

91 million



Donate Wales appointed Freshwater to devise and implement a campaign to raise awareness of the life-changing impact joining the organ donor register could make to people across Wales, and encourage them to sign up. Activity was split across two phases: an initial New Year burst, followed by a sustained campaign in the proceeding months. We needed to recruit an additional 1,000 sign-ups to the UK organ donor register during phase one. And then an average of 4,000 people per month in Wales during the rest of the campaign. We also needed to spark debate around an opt-out organ donation system in order to try to persuade the Welsh Government to change legislation.


Our strategy went beyond the mainstream Welsh media by targeting documentary-makers, glossy magazines and UK national broadcast and print media.

The New Year activity encouraged people to make a resolution to save a life by joining the organ donor register. This included a case study-led media relations and direct mail campaign, with an emailer sent to a database of 43,000 18-35 year olds in Wales featuring a link to the Donate Wales website.

Digital adverts ran, while campaign packs were distributed to partnering charities and healthcare professionals. This included the coalition of organisations supporting the Donate Wales campaign, including the Kidney Wales Foundation, Royal National Institute of Blind People Cymru, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK Cymru, British Medical Association, Live Life then Give Life, British Liver Trust, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, British Lung Foundation and Welsh Kidney Patients Association.

Phase two was built around a creative concept that evolved from an article written by a transplant patient who likened waiting for a transplant to being on “an invisible death row”.

This powerful, authentic message underpinned our campaign narrative. We recruited case studies based on age, sex, language and location – as well as those who had either received or were still waiting for a transplant – to cover a broad spectrum that would give the campaign universal appeal to all demographics. We filmed a hard-hitting television and radio advert featuring patients in disused police cells, and arranged photography for use in media relations, direct mail and on the website.

The campaign’s overall success hinged on integrating all components behind the common objective of boosting sign-ups. At the same time Facebook users were being encouraged to join the organ donor register and “donate their status”, proximity marketing saw text messages sent to people telling them how to join on their phone. An e-mailer directed people to an updated website, refreshed to reflect the death row creative concept. WalesOnline visitors were exposed to the digital advert and people across Wales were seeing campaign posters in pharmacies and surgeries.

By ensuring the target audience was reading coverage on the front page of their newspaper, seeing it on their televisions, hearing it on their radios and being engaged via social media, we created a high impact campaign that drove mass awareness, and engagement.


The TV advert premiered as a lead item on Sky News and was followed by a live studio debate on the opt-out organ donation system. As well as securing UK national print coverage in The Sun and The Observer, half-hour documentaries following the campaign case studies aired on S4C’s Y Byd ar Bedwar and ITV’s Wales this Week, while campaign collateral sent to Hollyoaks featured in scenes shot in a North Wales hospital.

An additional 2,500 people joined the organ donor register in Wales during the New Year activity compared to the previous year – beating our original target more than two-fold. We also recruited over 4,092 people on average per month during the campaign period – another target set by Donate Wales, and beaten by Freshwater.

During the course of the year, of which the campaign ran for 9 months, more than 60,000 people joined the organ donor register – an increase of more than 50% compared to the previous year.

Ultimately, the sustained, high-profile debate on opt-out generated by this campaign led to the Welsh Government announcing it would introduce opt-out organ donation. As a result, Wales now leads the way for the rest of the UK in adopting an opt-out system for organ donation.

In recognition of its success, ‘Invisible Death Row’ was named Best Integrated Campaign at the national CIPR Excellence Awards and won Best Integrated Campaign and Best Not-For-Profit Campaign at the Wales CIPR PRide Awards.



Donate Wales

Related services

    • Campaign Planning
    • Public Relations
    • Video Production
    • Advertising
    • Social Media Marketing
    • Stakeholder Engagement
    • Public Affairs
    • Content Marketing
    • Web Development


    • Healthcare
    • Not for Profit


January - October 2010