Shelter’s humour tackles the housing emergency

Shelter's Head of Marketing on pressuring politicians for lasting change

Shelter’s Head of Marketing, Helen Saul takes us behind the scenes of How to lose an election — a campaign aimed at politicians and policymakers to take notice of the housing emergency.

At Shelter we’re on a mission to make sure everyone has a safe and secure home. But in a world overwhelmed with social issues, getting people to care about housing isn’t as easy as you might expect. Daily news is filled with heavy stories, often leaving people feeling powerless to make a difference.

Housing usually ranks between the fifth and sixth issue on people’s priority lists despite its far-reaching implications for the areas that sit above it, like health and the economy. The enormity of the issue can be daunting. A staggering 17.5 million people in Britain are impacted by the Housing Emergency, so the question we had to answer was how do we translate this into terms that will get policymakers to sit up and take notice?

We decided to approach this by injecting humour into a serious topic with our How to lose an election campaign. We bundled something we know politicians care about — winning votes — with absurd ways to lose an election. Our list began with ‘ignore 1 in 4 voters impacted by the housing emergency’ and was completed with attention-grabbing ideas like ‘abolish bank holidays’ or ‘leave the nuke codes on the bus.’

To hook in politicians arriving at Labour and Conservative party conferences in Liverpool and Manchester, we worked with Yonder media agency to roll out unmissable billboards and contextual clean graffiti, using a jetwash and a stencil. We plastered newspapers, online ads and digivans with our message, making it clear: neglect the 1 in 4 voters affected by the housing emergency, and you may lose the next election.

Alongside, we ran an action for our supporters, to show the people in charge that we will not be ignored any longer; with a link to our General Election Manifesto outlining a four-point plan to end the Housing Emergency; which is built on the experiences, voices and views of people with lived experience of the housing emergency.

Today, our petition stands at 22,546 signatures and gives people the opportunity to state exactly why they care about this issue when they sign. Reasons range from a desire for more social housing, to advocating for an end to racism and discrimination in housing, or from having personal experience of homelessness.

In addition to this, almost 7,000 people have emailed their MP directly asking them to prioritise our housing asks. By focusing on the solution we’re showing people that, by caring about housing, they can create the pressure on politicians that is needed to make positive and lasting change.

Featured image: Huy Phan / Pexels

Helen Saul, Head of Marketing, Shelter

Helen is the Head of Marketing at Shelter, where she runs campaigns defending the right to safe home. Helen’s been responsible for award-winning global campaigns throughout her career, and was nominated by The Drum as ‘one of the world’s top 50 most exciting brand marketers.’ She’s also hosted Mad Influence Podcast, speaking to industry leaders who are using their power for good.

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