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Stay Home Now - Don’t send our NHS backwards

Posted by James Quail on

Stay Home Now - Don’t send our NHS backwards

The message is simple and incredibly powerful. And it’s all over social media. If you venture outside you may also have seen it on billboards.

Stay Home Now. Don’t send our NHS backwards.

SHN-WS from St Luke's on Vimeo.

By reversing the letters in the NHS logo our friend and fellow creative Richard Denney (ECD at ad agency St Luke’s) created one of the most impactful call to actions of the UK’s COVID-19 crisis.


So we stayed in and asked him a few questions about the campaign and his own experiences of lockdown:

This is such a great message. How did it come about?

My mum is a recently retired nurse so I felt we needed to do something. What the NHS is doing right now cannot be taken for granted or lightly. We MUST support and try to protect them by doing our bit and staying at home. It’s not a difficult ask.

Three days before lockdown, Neil Henderson (CEO of St Luke’s) shared a poem to the agency on our Friday evening agency Zoom get together. It was a letter written in 1920 by F. Scott Fitzgerald whilst quarantined in the South of France during the Spanish Influenza outbreak. The next day he sent us all an interview from Dr Jack on LBC radio. It was extremely emotional to listen to, asking us all to stay at home to protect those fighting on the frontline as well as ourselves. Add to that the images of NHS staff with burn marks on their faces after 12 hour shifts also pleading for us to stay at home, I felt compelled to do something. I’ve always had a proactive nature and started thinking about the message we should all be adhering to support them. Fortunately, I saw the answer lay in the iconic NHS logo itself. I still can’t quite believe it. A simple graphic message which was emotionally relevant too. What a bloody gift.

It’s really caught people’s imagination. What are your favourite interpretations of it?

It’s been rather humbling to see it take on a life of its own and in all honesty it’s what I hoped it would do. I wanted the nation to own it and knew if it did it would have more meaning and more importantly meant people were actually listening. I’m a huge fan of ‘People just do nothing’ so was over the moon when Kurupt FM created a film in their own humorous way to spread the message. Not only that It gave the message huge reach with over 110k views. Early on in the campaign a woman dyed her hair blue and shaved SHN into the back of her head to raise money for charity which was a wonderful thing and again was newsworthy with her local press giving her and our message coverage. There was also a young boy who painted the logo on to a pebble and showed us a magic trick turning the pebble round from NHS to SHN. Very sweet and emotive. Another one I liked was someone creating a post with Florence Nightingale graffitiing the message onto a wall. I also loved Skip Gallery sticking on the side of a blue skip and placing it on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar square. All wonderful creative expressions which are sharable in themselves.

How has lockdown been for you?

It sounds weird saying it, but I’ve relished the time working from home. Of course, I miss getting together with the crew from St Luke’s and mates in the industry, but seeing their faces regularly on Zoom has helped soften that. I’ve never been busier too, working longer hours as home has become the office but I’m really enjoying it as I don’t have the commute. Also, my family has enjoyed seeing the creative process of what we do which has been inspiring for us all. My youngest son Charlie, who turned eleven during lockdown even came up with two COVID 19 posters early on, which I have to say are rather good. The downside though apart from not having real face time with friends and colleagues is making sure you find time to escape from the day job which is hard to do when you live where you work. And It’s much harder to switch off especially as you can’t go out and do other things, but like most people we’ve had plenty of stuff to do that never gets done so that has helped free the mind a little as well as escape from the craziness of this reality.
I do believe though that Isolation for some has created real liberation, it certainly has for me as people want to demonstrate their creativity during lockdown and not be forgotten, especially as a lot of projects we have been working on have been put on hold. We really have witnessed some incredible creative thinking and beautiful craft. I’ve really enjoyed your Isolation series. Some stunning design and creative expression there. Nice one.

Does working at home alter the way you feel about your home?

For me the best ideas don’t come from sitting at my desk and often come when I walk away from it or am sitting on the train or going to the toilet even. That has happened a lot. My old creative partner used love it when I went for a loo break. Probably just for a bit of peace and quiet.
Being at home and changing the creative process has certainly reinvigorated my creative thinking. The danger however is to avoid it becoming monotonous which can stifle the imagination so it’s important to try to break away from it if possible, even if it means sitting somewhere else in the home for a change of view.

Does your environment change the themes of the work that you produce?

I get inspired by life around me and the stories it offers. It’s what my best work has been based on. Authentic, human truths that people can relate to. We have been forced into isolation and naturally that has forced the way content is being created too. For example, my son came running into the lounge to spark up his Xbox, super excited about Travis Scott dropping his ‘Astronomical concert’ in Fortnite. How fucking cool and original was that. If you can’t get people to come to your concert then take your concert to them. A genius bit of thinking and a huge PR story. Just incredible. Things like that inspire thoughts on future projects on ways to disrupt and engage with the audiences we want to talk to and without them hating us for doing it. Pure entertainment.

I’m a big fan of staying home! Film, music, books! What have you been doing to fill your time at home?

Work has taken pretty much all my time up especially with the SHN campaign but when I’m not working I’ve been trying to do stuff that I would never have actually done.

I’m also mad keen fisherman and although I can’t go out and fly fish at the moment I can still sit at home and tie flies which is the closest thing to going and it’s a form of creativity and escapism for me. I recently found a rare book in Oxfam called ‘The British Underground Press of the Sixties’ by James Birch and Barry Miles on activist art. The design and art direction is incredible. I’m also about to start reading Don McMullin’s autobiography ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ I’m gutted I didn’t get the chance to see his exhibition at the TATE.

I have also just ordered a lino cutting set which is something I used to enjoy doing at college. So, I thought I’d get the family having a go at that and at the very least it will get the youngest off the Xbox for a few hours.

Is there anything about the experience of staying at home that you’ll aim to carry on with afterwards?

Yes, remote working. Social distancing will be forced for some time and therefore remote working will be part of new agency life. I’ve also been inspired by different design companies and creative agencies that aren’t like St Luke’s. We have a thing at St Luke’s called ‘Clever breakfasts’ where we get people in to share the things they do. We’ve had some great talks from VR specialists and renowned photographers, to IP mangers from the likes of Disney and want more people to come in share their creativity and experiences even if it’s on Zoom. So, if anyone is up for this please do drop me a line.

Do you feel time is passing in a different way?

It’s gone super quick for me but that’s down to being busy on current projects including lots of pitches and other things I want to do. I would love a little more time so I can get all of these things done. Arghhhhh!

You can read more about the #StayHomeNow campaign on St Luke's blog where you can also download assets to contribute your own response.

Stay Home Now from St Luke's on Vimeo.


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