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Recipe of the Month: The British Council Realise Your Dream campaign

Technology & Data

Recipe of the Month: The British Council Realise Your Dream campaign


Client: The British Council
Creative agency: M&C Saatchi
PR: Open Dialogue


The British Council is a not-for-profit global organisation that runs, among many other programs, an annual scholarship competition for young Australians called Realise Your Dream. The purpose of the British Council is to build mutually beneficial relationships between people in the UK and those in other countries and to increase appreciation of the UK’s creative ideas and achievements. The Council’s work is driven by its strong belief in internationalism, a commitment to professionalism and an enthusiasm for creativity. Its Realise Your Dream scheme offers five scholarships to Australians, aged between 18 and 26, who work or study in a creative area. These areas can include the arts, advertising, architecture, video, fashion, music, TV, scriptwriting – anything considered a creative career. Entries are called for and, from hundreds of hopefuls, five winners are flown to the UK and placed with a mentor or guru in their field for up to three months to enhance their skills and expose them to the very best in their field. Each prize is worth $10,000.


M&C Saatchi and its PR company Open Dialogue PR were appointed to generate awareness of the Realise Your Dream Scheme and encourage a high level – in both quality and quantity – of entries from around the country. Directing visitors to the website was vital. Specifically, the goal was to increase responses by at least 50 percent.


As a not-for profit organisation, the British Council’s budget was minimal. In fact, it was even 30 percent less than the previous year. This is a national competition spread across a vast range of industries and had to appeal to both students and those already working in their field. Add to that the fact that the target audience was media savvy and considered to be somewhat sceptical of traditional advertising approaches and the task was a challenging one. In addition, previous winners were difficult to reach for PR as they were in the UK at the time of the launch completing their prize.


As an organisation that seeks to promote creativity, the British Council understood the value of a bold, unique idea and the cut-through it offers. Creativity was at the heart of the Realise Your Dream scheme and was embraced as a key factor in the campaign. The client was open to embracing brave marketing ideas and prepared to be controversial. The target audience was Australia’s most creative young people aged between 18 and 26.


The target audience needed to be surprised, intrigued and inspired to enter the competition. To demonstrate the fantastic opportunities these scholarships offered, the concept of ‘Poms will whinge’ was created. The strategy was built around showing aggrieved English people complaining about the fact that ‘their’ place had been taken by Australians. It was considered to be the perfect mix of controversy and relevance. With a minimal budget, any extra word of mouth or PR that could be generated from the campaign itself would make a real difference to the success of the campaign.

Testimonials from previous winners were also considered important to the campaign mix and this was a core focus of the public relations campaign.

By bringing the opportunities to life with previous winners, the scheme was personalised and designed to generate a response of ‘If they can do it, so can I’ from potential entrants.

Overall, a combination of viral, digital, direct mail, postcards, posters and media relations to generate editorial were used. In addition, the final awards night would be utilised to further generate awareness of the British Council’s Realise Your Dream scheme to target media. Also key to the strategy was driving people to the website where they could find out more information and apply to the competition.


To launch the scheme, a campaign of three viral spots was created with each one featuring a different ‘Pom’ complaining about the opportunity that Australians (and not the English) had with the Realise Your Dream scheme. The viral spots were not only sent out to a database, but also to key media. Generating any editorial coverage of the actual campaign was a high priority and the ‘Poms will whinge’ approach was considered strong enough to evoke a response from journalists.

As well as the viral spots, a number of direct pieces were produced around the whingeing Pom theme. Postcards and posters were sent to key tertiary institutions and key influencers as well as cafés.

Targeted media approaches featuring previous winners were made to TV (Sunrise), press (local and national, trade and consumer) and radio for coverage about the scheme’s call for entries. Each previous winner was highlighted individually for specific local coverage as well as trade or relevant consumer media. In addition, once finalists were named, individual media approaches were made to local or professional media.

Towards the end of the entry period, actual paintings on canvas were produced by agency creatives and then posted to tertiary heads of faculties with a letter from the character in the spot, asking lecturers to discourage their students from entering.

At the end of the entry period, and once winners had been selected, an award evening was held. People who were invited to the announcement received two pieces of mail. The first was a formal invitation to the event. The second was a letter from the artist in the viral spot with a petition with hundreds of English signatures urging invitees to boycott the function.


An 85 percent increase in applications was achieved. In addition, the quality of entries was considered higher than previous years according to the judging panel. Cost per application was reduced from $68 to $40. There was a 31 percent increase in web traffic with visitors to the site spending an average of 3.5 minutes. National editorial coverage in TV, press and radio was achieved – all containing key messages.

In addition, to the delight of the client, the Whingeing Poms campaign was one of country’s most highly awarded direct campaigns, gathering a swag of national and international gongs.


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