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The Challenge

How can you design a bold ethical creative appeal?

The Insight

Creative limitations can inspire new thinking.

The Solution

A human-led campaign that drives urgent response from desired audiences.

CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, first approached us following a talk we gave on designing ethical creative as they looked ahead to their UK advent appeal considering how they could bolden their creative with inclusivity front and center.

Working closely with their in-house team the goal was to consider how we could form a concept that could speak to new supporters collaborating every step of the way. It was crucial for us to be in step with their programmatic teams who were on the ground assisting in delivering aid in Afghanistan to promote women’s empowerment. 

Turning creative limitation into inspiration

We were mindful of some aspects that needed to inform and could be seen perhaps as limiting creative output  – we wanted to feature individuals involved in the campaign but had to protect their identities and ensure faces could not be revealed. To maintain authenticity we were keen to use assets supplied by their programmatic teams but still wanted to elevate the visuality so it could stand alongside high production campaigns.

In a series of co-creation workshops we developed a proposition and two potential routes to explore for the campaign. One closer to work they had delivered whilst the other took on a bolder, urgent tone.

Share The Light was built around the central symbol of advent, the candle. Designed to spotlight stories and create compassion, this route represented a build on previous campaigns, giving it a design lift and a refreshed focus.

Don’t Wait was more subversive in tone. For those not familiar with Advent, it is a time of reflection and consideration. This route placed that moment in the context of these crises where immediate action was needed. Waiting was not an option.

Our exploratory concepts for the CAFOD EOY campaign

The provocative route proved popular with the CAFOD team and, inspired by their openness to take risks and pursue new approaches, we moved into campaign design.

We created three core campaign themes: winter, livelihoods and food to bring together key messages and stories from teams working with those impacted on the ground.

“The inspiration underpinning the creative for our campaign was based on the insight that waiting is fundamental to Advent. But some things can’t wait. Women in Afghanistan are lacking the basics to survive the harsh winter. So we needed to provide a sense of urgency for the audience not to wait to act and to donate today.”

Will Crowne, Comms Lead, Blue State

No time to be subtle

For the chosen campaign concept  ‘Don’t Wait’ the typography we used was intentionally dominant, almost imposing on the image so that it couldn’t be ignored.

The pixelation of faces, at first designed to be a protective measure, became the creative. We stylised it from smaller modules we’re used to seeing on TV screens to block identities, building it out and enlarging it to make it more of a graphical component – crafted so it could also act as a grid for the typography.

A lot of what we were working with were materials that existed and we were applying a new lens to bolden it. The font that formed the center of the campaign was from their guidelines helping to bring brand consistency. We compacted it and selected a stencil style designed to act as a call to action to their supporters and wider potential audience.

The ‘Don’t Wait’ appeal ran across social, email & web

Reviewing the assets from the programmatic teams it was the B Roll footage that caught our eye versus the photography. It captured individuals as they were sharing their stories and in the places of impact. We took screenshots of this to allow us to bring their voices to life authentically. 

Don’t Wait allowed us to put the women we were seeking to support as the ‘face’ of our appeal whilst protecting who they were. 

Blue State helped us level up our work for our end-of-year Advent campaign, bringing clarity and creativity to a challenging brief and working with us collaboratively on all aspects of the campaign; media, creative and strategy. The resulting creative is a strong concept which also gives us renewed confidence in how we reach new audiences online.

It felt like we were one team and it was a great experience.

Vanessa Chang, Head of Individual Giving at CAFOD

A campaign to spark a new approach

At Blue State we partner with organizations not just to transform how they engage with audiences but to build capacity to accelerate change in the way organizations create and deliver their meaningful work.

With our creative route in place, we were keen to consider how it could act as a platform to connect to new audiences with our research showing the opportunity to build out amongst educators and those working in Catholic institutions.

After reviewing their audiences, data and previous campaigns, it was clear Meta was best placed to be the primary channel for the digital campaign with paid search playing a supporting role in capturing and converting engagement.

We created a test and learn approach and creative toolkit that offered examples for social statics, video treatment with key messaging areas and examples. The outputs were designed to inform but also live on outside of this campaign allowing the team to reach more people and raise more funds as a result.


  • 5:1 ROAS on Google Ads
  • 3.6m Potential new donors reached
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