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Cadburys - Donate your words


This case represents our Designing for People approach as it helps to demonstrate a clear proof point that purpose-led experiences can also be commercially powerful if they are rooted in empathy.


Half a million elderly people go at least 5 or 6 days without seeing or speaking to anyone. (Source: Age UK)

Cadbury Dairy Milk is a brand about generosity and connection, and so we embarked on a campaign to create a difference and change this. Cadbury removed the words from its Dairy Milk bar for the first time in support of Age UK to combat loneliness among the older generation. The initiative was accompanied by a heartfelt film by VCCP that told stories of several older people who feel alone in a TV ad spot. But our objective was not simply just about raising awareness of the issue. We needed people to take action to tackle the epidemic. Media needed to do more to create human empathy and encourage people to volunteer their time.


Walk a mile in my shoes, see what I see, hear what I hear, feel what I feel.

Loneliness cannot be understood by simply telling people about it. With most of us surrounded by friends, family, and colleagues, it is difficult for us to empathise with people who suffer, let alone help. We needed people to get as close to the human experience of loneliness as possible, and that meant taking a non-sufferer and putting them into confinement.

Idea & Strategy

A social experiment: Put a person into isolation and watch them deteriorate.

What we were about to do was risky. We needed people to empathise with what loneliness feels like, so our big idea was to take a big household name, put them in the same conditions an elderly person suffering from loneliness would be in and let the nation watch them deteriorate.


No fancy art direction, just raw footage.

With Sky, we arranged for the vibrant and beloved TV personality Sue Perkins to be placed in confinement in a house in London with no devices over a 30-hour period with nothing but a book. She documented her experience drawing light on her isolation, taking the audience on a very personal journey.

We told the story of her experience of loneliness unfolding in a series of 100-second and 60-second ad-spots that played out across Sky’s various TV channels. Sue documented the frustration and anguish she was feeling, and viewers could watch her mentally and physically deteriorate, seeing the effect on her mental health first-hand. Perkins’ time in the house came to an end with a knock on the door from 89-year-old Theresa. She explained to Perkins that her own life used to be like that every day until she joined her local Age UK befriending service. Each ad-spot asked viewers to donate their words by pledging their time to spend with an elderly person suffering from loneliness via the Cadbury chatbot or the Age UK website.


This campaign was not about selling chocolate bars; it was about reigniting connection with a generation that were disconnected.

1m people pledged they would ‘donate their words’ via the Cadbury chatbot or directly through Age UK’s website and volunteered their time to spend with an elderly person because of the campaign.

75% of people who saw the films said the campaign made them think more about the impact of loneliness, with 41% stating the experiment with Sky and Sue Perkins encouraged them to ‘donate their words’ and volunteer.

The campaign struck such a chord that the BBC’s The One Show invited Sue Perkins in to specifically discuss her experience of isolation and the experiment.

Whilst sales were not the aim of the campaign, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk saw a 53% YOY increase in value sales, proving that purpose pays off.