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CREATIVE STRATEGY: AKT uses fame and the famous in a good cause

Have you heard of the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT)? It's a charity that helps homeless gay people, founded in 1989, and named after a teenager who was murdered in a homophobic attack.

AKT: Sir Ian McKellen is among the stars who boost this ad's effectiveness

AKT: Sir Ian McKellen is among the stars who boost this ad's effectiveness

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I was certainly unaware of the charity ( until I saw a newspaper article about their latest ad.

Now, why would the London Evening Standard write about an ad for one of the UK’s lesser-known charities? Simply because it gave them the opportunity to interview Sir Ian McKellen, who stars in the ad. 

Here is advertising and PR working hand in hand. And I will surely not be the only one who’s now aware of the charity – and why it exists. 

To quote Sir Ian: "In the past, kids didn’t tell their parents they were gay, so there were never the bust-ups. Some parents react so strongly to the news that their children are gay that the reaction is ‘get out of the house’." The consequences are grim indeed. And potentially fatal. 

There is a cruel irony here. British society’s attitudes towards homosexuality have changed beyond all recognition – even in my lifetime – so that now young people are more likely to come out to their parents, for good or ill. 

Sir Ian is joined in the commercial by Andrew Hayden Smith, Sam Fox, Paul O’Grady, Sue Perkins and Kieron Richardson, acting as people who beg and sleep in doorways. Between them, they cover several generations of TV viewers, from my mother to current CBCC-watchers. 

It’s a simple device, but its potency is not to be underestimated – if your organisation isn’t already famous, employ some people who are, 'Gandalf' included.  

"Borrowed interest" is of course an old advertising trick. But AKT shows why we should never forget or dismiss the fundamental tools of our trade. Let’s hope that AKT’s campaign sees some fame turn into funds and fans.

Simon S Kershaw is a creative consultant and a former creative director at Craik Jones

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