FCB Inferno celebrates children’s strength in new Barnardo’s ad

A drummer, a gymnast, a ballerina and a footballer star in FCB Inferno’s new ad for Barnardo’s, which aims to portray children as heroes rather than victims


The 60-second spot – launched to mark Barnardo’s 150th anniversary – shows five children practising their hobbies while seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. A gymnast backflips past tables and chairs inside a dimly lit pub, a ballerina pirouettes across her living room and a teenage boy plays the drums while alone in his garage. Another boy does judo while a young girl practises keepy-ups.

Accompanying text reveals that they have been through some terrible situations – experiencing abuse, neglect and poverty – but they are not presented as victims. Instead, the ad focuses on each child’s strength and resilience, with lines such as ‘I am not my broken bones’ and ‘I am not my 17 foster homes’. There’s a defiant tone to their performance, emphasised by the ad’s powerful soundtrack – a cover of Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Lorde.

The stories alluded to in the ad are based on Barnardo’s case studies and aim to reflect the breadth of the charity’s work. As well as helping children living in poverty, it works with young carers and children who have suffered neglect and abuse. It also helps children find foster homes and adoptive parents.

The ad does not directly ask people to donate to the charity. Instead, it ends with the line Believe in Me – a change from Barnardo’s usual strapline, Believe in Children – and the message, ‘incredible things happen when you believe in children’. “It’s a tiny change but we felt it was much more impactful – a direct message from the children to the audience,” says copywriter Ali Dickinson.

The children featured are not actors and were discovered in sports and youth clubs around the country. “Sara [Dunlop, who directed the ad] was really keen not to use kids from stage school, as she wanted to find people whose performance would feel really natural,” explains art director Jack Walker. Children were chosen not on their athletic ability, he says, but their ability to deliver a convincing and passionate performance.


“Going to actors can have its benefits but people who’ve been to drama school – especially kids – have often been told things they should and shouldn’t do, and because of that the performance can end up feeling less real,” adds Dickinson. “It was also about giving kids [without acting experience] an opportunity.”

The ad was shot over two days in Thamesmead and FCB Inferno had just a couple of hours to film each child. In addition to the TV spot, the agency will be releasing a further two films online: one features an extended cut of the ballerina’s performance and another, the teenage gymnast’s. The additional films weren’t part of the initial brief but were made using footage shot in one take during filming.

The ad is the first FCB Inferno has worked on for Barnardo’s. The charity has worked with BBH since the 1990s but announced last year that it would review its advertising contract ahead of its anniversary. FCB won the pitch for the anniversary ad with a mood film that Walker and Dickinson say is remarkably similar to the final spot.

FCB Inferno's new ad for children's charity Barnardo's aims to portray children as heroes not victims

The film carries a hopeful message – that children’s lives needn’t be defined by traumatic experiences in their early years. It’s also reflective of a growing desire among charities – not just children’s charities but others such as Oxfam – to focus on more positive messaging around how they can help people instead of bleak statistics and shock tactics.

“We didn’t want people to feel sorry for the kids – we wanted them to feel a glimmer of hope,” says Walker. “We didn’t want to portray these children as victims,” adds Dickinson. “Children have an incredible ability to bounce back no matter what they’ve been through and we wanted to celebrate that strength,” he says.


CCO: Owen Lee
Art director: Jack Walker
Copywriter: Ali Dickinson
Director: Sara Dunlop
Production company: Rattling Stick
Post-production: The Mill
Audio post-production: String and Tins
Music: Lorde – Everybody Wants to Rule the World

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