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Show stopper exposes taboo

Overcoming the media embarrassment associated with OAB

Published: 01 Jun 2011

Mouth taped over

Client: Astellas Pharma Ltd

Agency: Red Door Communications

Campaign: `A Matter of Urgency’

Timescale: March to July 2010

A quick look

One of the iconic images of the 2010 Hampton Court Flower Show was a giant pink tap designed to get people talking about their waterworks and remove the taboo associated with bladder problems. As part of a national campaign called `A Matter of Urgency’, the show-stopping garden was designed to raise awareness of Overactive Bladder which affects nearly one in five people in the UK aged over 40. With coverage secured in national broadcast, print and online media outlets, the message reached more than 32 million people through this project alone. 


Nearly one in five people in the UK over 40 have an overactive bladder (OAB) and live with the urgent need to go to the toilet. Many feel too embarrassed to talk about it, believe nothing can be done and consider it an inevitable part of ageing.

Astellas Pharma Ltd, which manufactures medicines for the treatment of OAB, asked Red Door Communications (RDC) to devise an educational programme to encourage people to ask their GP for advice. The stigma attached to bladder problems has made it a taboo topic – even with the media. The campaign therefore needed to encourage people to set aside embarrassment, speak up about OAB and seek help.


It was decided to engage with people by generating intrigue at Hampton Court Flower Show to overcome the media taboo and embarrassment associated with OAB, supported by printed materials and the privacy of online information.

A campaign theme, ‘A Matter of Urgency’, was developed to reflect the main symptom of OAB – the urgent need to go to the toilet.RDC secured tv doctors Christian Jessen and Dawn Harper (presenters of Channel Four’s Embarrassing Bodies) to spearhead the campaign. Patient information leaflets were developed along with a microsite offering further information; a key message carousel; a downloadable patient leaflet; and video clips of Drs Jessen and Harper explaining about treatment options ( see Award-winning designer Jill Foxley turned around a silver-gilt medal garden with the `wow’ factor in 3 months, from design to completion. The focal point - a bright pink tap ‘magically’ suspended 3 metres in the air – incorporated the waterworks theme and secured significant media interest from national television to online gardeners’ blogs.


• 41,000 leaflets distributed

• 28 pieces of UK media coverage with circulation >32.8million

• Twitter and Facebook posts reached >30,000

• Microsite had >1,180 unique visitors: Google analytics  showed that traffic to the site peaked as a direct result of traditional media coverage and twitter posts.

Client verdict

“It was a fantastic experience to witness the ‘A Matter of Urgency’ garden generate such a high level of public interest – both from the media exposure RDC secured, and from the crowds that gathered ten people deep at the garden itself.

Our ultimate goal was to encourage people to take action, and we have already seen an increase in patients asking for help and finding out more from the ‘A Matter of Urgency’ website.

The team did a great job of tying in our campaign message with creativity, ensuring patients could articulate their symptoms of urgency in a meaningful way when they did present, as OAB can be difficult to describe.”

Claire Holman, Marketing Manager,

Astellas Pharma Ltd

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