02 June 2003


The Home Office unveiled its new "Talk To Frank" campaign in May. The linked campaign includes a telephone helpline service, a website and a new advertising campaign to promote the site. The launch and publicity campaign will cost £3m this year.

Talk to Frank is put together by a large number of agencies.

The PHONE SERVICE: The rebranded "Talk to Frank" service is provided by the Scottish-based Essentia Group. (http://www.essentiagroup.com/).

Essentia describe themselves thus:
Rewriting the rules of an entire industry, the Essentia Group is the UK's leading contact centre specialising in health and social welfare - a technology-based provider of governmental and commercial organisations’ information and advice services in the area of health and lifestyle management.

Essentia do operate a number of smoking and mental health services and have a track-record in substance use; presumably therefore, soem staff have a history of working with substances and new staff are receiving a level of training to achieve this level of competence.

THE ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN: The "Talk to Frank" campaign was designed by Mother working in conjunction with PHD. Mother are big players in Adland, and their roster includes such health-inducing products as Coca-Cola and environmentally sound companies as Unilever. Unfortunately they do not have a website but you can send them feedback on the FRANK campaign by clicking here: mother@mother.ltd.uk.

PR for the launch was handled by Fishburn Hedges, a London based PR company who also provided PR for Connexions.

The website and email interface was put together by EURO RSCG CIRCLE (aka Circle), a global digital marketing agency. Their website is at http://www.circle.com/contact/index.html

Reviewing FRANK
So is "Talk to Frank" any good. Reception from the mainstream drugs field was mixed. Roger Howard, was warmly receptive of the site and offered the following uncritical comments to the Guardian:

"Frank has been extensively trialed in the community where young people and their parents seem to be receptive to the campaign.

"Frank will hopefully provide better and more accurate information for young people and their parents to encourage them to talk to each other about this topic and we look forward to seeing the evaluation on the effectiveness of this in the future."

Much has been made by the Government and the media that the "Talk to Frank" campaign represented a step change away from "Just say no" approaches and a new, more honest and credible approach.

In reality however, the National Drugs Helpline had never promoted itself in this way; previous publicity campaigns for the Helpline had concentrated on the line as a source of factual information, such as the long-runnning ads about cocaine and ecstasy that were often on XFM in London.

Release welcomed the rebranding too, describing the new "Talk to Frank" approach as "more friendly" than the NDH.

There were a number of criticisisms of the NDH; the most important of these was the ridiculously short time window target for callers. Many callers were simply referred on to a local service, and call-handlers assiduously bundled potentially long callers - especially distressed parents - on to other services as quickly as possible. If "Frank" is really providing a better service, it will be interesting to see if there is a greater "depth" to the work, or it restricts itself to simple advice and referal on.

The Campaign:
The idea of "talk to Frank" was clearly intended to promote the idea of speaking to an informed friend: but the advertising company decided that the informed friend should be someone who sounds like he is white and male. Despite the fact that the campaign was trialled, this seems like a strage choice: why Frank? Why a male? How does this fit in with any sense of cultural diversity? Some organisations have disapproved of the way that the police have been portrayed in the adverts too.

Content: KFx has refered a number of errors on the Website to relevant bodies and is satisfied that they are being dealt with at the time of writing.

Talk To Frank http://www.talktofrank.com/
Guardian Web review: Frank has no cred: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,11026,962418,00.html

Drug advice campaign is a wasted opportunity, say charities: Guardian: 23.5.03