Winners 2023

Best social purpose campaign

Iceland Food Club
Fair for You
Agency: Think Communications

When supermarket chain Iceland discovered five years ago that many of its customers struggled to get finance from mainstream lenders and were instead turning to friends and families, loan sharks charging exorbitant rates or, alternatively, going hungry, it decided to act.

Head of sustainability Hilary Berg collaborated with Fair for You, a charity-owned ethical lender that is backed by leading social investors, to create the Iceland Food Club, which offers low-interest loans of up to £100 to spend at Iceland.

After a successful pilot in 2020, the scheme was launched nationwide in August 2022, when the loans were offered interest free.

Agency Think Communications was recruited to drive applications to Iceland Food Club, gain stakeholder support and attract investors, as well to highlight the scheme’s social impact and why it was different from other forms of credit.

Its strategy focused on promoting an independent evaluation of the pilot, which showed customers were feeding their children better and were less likely to use food banks, fall behind on bills, feel stressed or turn to loan sharks.

But the agency was aware that many journalists and other stakeholders are unaware of the concept of affordable credit and can confuse this with Buy Now Pay Later schemes or even loan sharks. Extensive question and answer sheets were produced to mitigate the risk and address inaccuracies if, and when, they appeared. (This prompted one online news service to remove the term BNPL in the headline describing the scheme.)

It was also important that customers (and the media) recognised that these loans would be interest-free, in contrast to the pilot period, in which low-interest loans were offered, and on which the evaluation had been based. There also needed to be a distinction between short-term loans usually offered by Fair for You, which typically charge 4.25 per cent per month.

Fair For You and Think Communications briefed MPs, public bodies and charities both during the pilot scheme and also at national launch, where they highlighted the benefits of the scheme and addressed potential criticism head on.

Think also compiled Fair For You’s submission to an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Ending the Need for Food Banks. Its final report commended Fair For You and affordable credit, providing further news hooks for the scheme.

The media campaign focused on sharing the experience of customers who had used the pilot scheme, giving them a voice to explain the dignity and freedom the loans had afforded them. The launch was covered across the gamut of national print and broadcast media, generating more than 130 articles, which highlighted how the scheme ‘took corporate responsibility to a whole new level’. Ketchum, Iceland’s PR agency, at national launch, managed Iceland’s CEO Richard Walker’s media appearances as a strong advocate for change.

The coverage prompted 50,000 applications in less than one week, and the scheme now has more than 27,000 customers who have received loans totalling more than £4.8 million. These customers report improved physical and mental health and better control over their finances. More than 50,000 children are estimated to have benefited from the scheme.

Iceland Food Club has also received endorsements from the Trussell Trust, the anti-poverty charity which supports the country’s biggest community of food banks, and the All-Party Parliamentary Groups. A further £2 million has also been provided to the club by a government-backed funder.

The judges described this as ‘a clear entry with an integrated approach’ that targeted not just the media, but the government ‘who can make a difference’, while recognising that a story about interest-free loans can be difficult to land, because of negative connotations around the word ‘loan’.

They added: ‘This shows how, while the campaign message is important the rebuttals are equally important to ensure it doesn’t turn into a negative or misleading story. This was a great campaign.’