Public Relations Awards

How to Use Shock Tactics to Reach Your Audience, From a Stevie Awards Winner

Posted by Liz Dean on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 @ 11:55 AM

Burson-Marsteller in Sydney, Australia received the Gold Stevie® Award for Best PR Campaign of the Year in Community Relations in the PR awards categories of The 2012 International Business Awards, the world's premier business awards competition. (The entry deadline for the 2013 IBAs is 15 May. If you haven't yet done so, you can request your entry kit here.) Here we look at the surprising way a health message was communicated.

“Show Us Your Lungs” campaignSeven million Australians are estimated to be at serious risk of lung disease, a growing health issue that causes 350,000 hospitalizations in that country annually. The Australian Lung Foundation (ALF) had been trying to educate the public about this problem since 1990, but had been finding it a major challenge.

In 2011, Burson-Marsteller (B-M) encouraged the ALF to try a completely different approach. The result was the “Show Us Your Lungs” campaign, which engaged more Australians, through more mediums, than any ALF campaign before it.

After five years of working with the ALF, B-M wanted to re-invigorate the annual ALF campaign to encourage Australians to take action against the symptoms of lung disease, but felt that a fresh approach was needed to achieve the necessary cut-through in public attention.

The concept that B-M developed embodied a cheeky call to action—“Show Us Your Lungs!”—With a serious message that would resonate with all audiences, but especially health professionals, patient groups, and consumers.

To ensure support from campaign stakeholders, B-M presented the initial strategy and creative concepts to approximately 40 key medical opinion leaders and corporate funding bodies.  It was accepted with resounding applause.

The project was implemented and run between July – October, 2011.

Background Research
In order to highlight the risks to the public of ignoring their lungs, research was undertaken in the form of a survey into general consumer attitudes towards lung health.

Celebrity Stakeholders
High profile Australians were partnered with to communicate key campaign messages, including Australia’s best-known GP, Dr. John D’Arcy, TV vet Dr. Harry Cooper, and actor John Jarratt, star of the popular Australian show Wolf Creek.

Teaser Campaign
B-M directed a quirky teaser video and full-length community service announcement, featuring John Jarratt and a couple of “flashers” in trench coats, who “flashed” people on the street, only to reveal healthy and unhealthy lungs painted on their bodies. These videos spearheaded the digital element of the campaign and were hosted on the ALF YouTube channel.

Using the findings of the initial survey to communicate how many Australians are at risk of lung disease, B-M developed a multi-media news release, which included media materials, research findings, and visual and audio content from the spokespeople. In addition to celebrities, the spokespeople included lung-disease patients and leading medical experts.

Flashing in Public
A public “flashing” event was held to launch the campaign on October 10, 2011. Actors in trench coats “flashed” commuters, revealing their body-painted lungs. This event had the dual purpose of engaging directly with the public to deliver campaign messages, and providing media visuals to support the national and state-based media outreach.

Collateral Material
A range of promotional campaign material was produced that encouraged people to take the ALF’s lung health checklist, visit online resources, and/or seek medical advice.


  1. The campaign reached nearly a quarter of all Australians with an estimated reach of 5.5 million. This included 540 pieces of coverage across television, radio, print, and online outlets, including over 3,600 views of the YouTube videos.
  2. Traffic to the ALF website doubled during the campaign launch, and there was a huge spike in social media activity.
  3. The ALF received feedback from health care providers that there was a significant increase in enquiries about lung health over the duration of the campaign.

About Burson Marsteller Sydney:
Burson-Marsteller Sydney is a leading public relations and public affairs firm that has provided strategic communication services to some of Australia's largest and most reputable companies since 1980.  The agency has the benefit of a global, resource-rich network, while retaining a local, flexible, and nimble offering in Australia, making it a partner of choice to both large and small businesses.

Tags: International business awards, PR awards, Burson Marsteller Sydney, “Show Us Your Lungs” campaign