Stamma's 'Don't Be a Knob' campaign asks people to be patient

The satirical campaign, developed by VMLY&R London, encourages people to let those with a stammer finish their sentences

By creative salon

Stamma, the British Stammering Association, has launched its 2023 awareness campaign in anticipation of International Stammering Awareness Day on 22 October. The new initiative aims to highlight the common challenges faced by individuals who stammer during basic interactions with businesses, like returning an item.

Created by VMLY&R London, the 'Don't be a knob, don't jump in' campaign will be featured in online films, cinema presentations, and out-of-home displays across the UK. Its goal is to encourage the general public and businesses to allow individuals who stammer the space to complete their sentences.

“People who stammer face being interrupted, hung up on and having their sentences finished on a daily basis,” said Jane Powell, CEO at Stamma. “Whether it’s ordering a coffee, returning an item of furniture, or reporting a lost credit card; what should be a straightforward experience can be made a nightmare by staff unprepared for people who stammer. We’d love to help end this.”

As part of the campaign, Stamma will guide individuals to, offering valuable details for businesses, including training opportunities and resources for effectively interacting with customers who stammer, whether in-person or over the phone.

The satirical hero film, directed by Liakh via Spindle, humorously portrays the surreal customer service encounter of a character named 'Debbie' (constantly misaddressed as 'Derry' by the well-intentioned but inept call handling agent, 'Jeff'). In the storyline, Debbie attempts to return a coffin but faces challenges of being consistently talked over and interrupted.

“Last night I tried to find out where my food order was and I felt like Debbie. A week ago I wanted to sort out my internet bill and I felt like Debbie. Tomorrow I will be talking to my GP practice and I hope I don’t feel like Debbie, but the odds are not stacked in my favour. This film is dedicated to all Debbie’s and Jeff’s out there. Big shout out to the whole gang for turning this wild script into a powerful film we can all be proud of. And a special thanks to our great and powerful lead Helen for inserting her own family member’s experience with a stammer so well into her character, Debbie,” said Liakh, Director at Spindle.

The wider campaign includes out-of-home displays designed in partnership with London-based illustrator Biff, renowned for his unique and humorous typography. Each poster cleverly addresses the frustration experienced by individuals who stammer when others prematurely complete their sentences with incorrect words.

“Every year we partner with Stamma and do our best to pluck out some of the boring ad formulas that appear over and over again in current advertising. It’s hard and scary to get right, but I say bring us your coffins, dirty pillows, and offensive customer service cliches, and we’ll make you something that is hard to ignore. Why? It’s actually very simple, because people want to feel and see something that is different," said Adam Noel, Creative Partner at VMLY&R London.

In collaboration with JCDecaux UK, the out-of-home campaign will connect with audiences through digital out-of-home screens positioned nationwide. Additionally, Pearl & Dean has generously provided cinema media, extending the campaign's visibility until January 2024, featuring a 90-second shortened version.

The push for change has been given extra impetus from the Declaration of the Right to Stammer/Stutter. Signed by over 80 organisations internationally so far, Stamma wants to see companies who support inclusivity and customer satisfaction improve their systems and staff training so that all their goods and services are accessible to all their customers.


Client: Stamma

CEO: Jane Powell

Agency: VMLY&R

Chief Creative Officer: Laurent Simon

Creative Director & Writer: Adam Noel

Creative: Josh Croston

Producer: Roz Lawson

Copywriter, OOH: Gavin Mcgrath

Designers, OOH: Dominic Frain & Jack Webster

Producer, OOH: Layla Boyd

Associate Director, Communications: Billi Hatfield

Illustrations: Biff @ Jelly London

Production: Spindle

Director & Writer: Liakh

Creative Partner: Tim Swaby

Director Of Photography: Spike Morris

1st AD: Elsa Grace

Producer: Jordi Estapé

Executive Producer: Mayling Wong

HMUA: Maisie Boyd

Casting Director: Cameron Culver

Talent: Helen Grady

Talent: Josh Ely

Edit: TenThree

Edit Producer: Clel Allen

Editor: David Whittaker

Onliner: Renato Solca

Sound house: Creative Outpost

Sound: Alex Wilson-Thame

Sound Producer: Caz McNally

Grade: Black Kite

Grade Producer: Alizée Levrino

Grader: George Kyriacou


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