NHS creates dolls to represent long Christmas wait for children on organ donor register

The emotionally challenging campaign, 'Waiting to live' was led by Wunderman Thompson UK

By Creative Salon

While most children are eagerly awaiting a visit from Santa at Christmas, more than 230 children are waiting for something they want even more… a life-saving organ transplant that will help them to see many more Christmases.

Currently, there is a significant lack of child organ donors, resulting in children and their families waiting for a life-saving donation that tragically sometimes doesn’t come.  

In 2021/22, just 52 per cent of families who were approached about organ donation gave consent for their child’s organs to be donated. This represented just 40 organ donors under the age of 18. However, in cases where a child was already registered on the NHS Organ Donation Register, no family refused the donation.  

Now in a bid to raise vital awareness of the need for more child organ donors, integrated marketing agency Wunderman Thompson UK and NHS Blood & Transplant are launching a powerful campaign that will see the children transformed into handmade dolls placed in waiting rooms across the country. The dolls will launch a campaign to promote conversation around paediatric organ donation and encourage more parents to consider adding their child to the register.  

The campaign, ‘Waiting to Live’, launcheed on 21st November with dolls representing children on the waiting list appearing across the country, including in waiting rooms for major transplant hubs like Great Ormond Street Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and Evalina Children’s Hospital, among others. 

With the backing of hospitals across the country, more than 230 dolls have been handmade by over 140 makers. Many of the dolls are based on real children on the waiting list. For instance, Ralph’s doll wears his favourite lightning bolt t-shirt and holds a car; Ava’s doll wears a bear suit for her love of bears whilst Pablo’s doll is dressed in a karate outfit in reference to his favourite hobby.  

Each doll will be wearing a badge with QR codes that links through to www.waitingtolive.org. A dedicated campaign site, built by the Wunderman Thompson team, which allows people to listen to the stories of children who are waiting and sign their own children up for the NHS Organ Donor Register.  

‘Waiting to Live’ builds on the ‘Consider This’ campaign launched in September, which used radio and press to make a powerful appeal on behalf of the parents of three-year-old Ralph, who is waiting for a multi-organ transplant. Katie, Ralph’s mother is an employee at Wunderman Thompson.  

In the hero TV spot, a doll, representing Ralph, is shown sat alone in a waiting room while people pass by him. Other dolls are then shown sitting alone in other waiting rooms, while the ad reads ‘he is not alone’. We then return to Ralph, with the message: ‘You can help end the wait. Register yourself and your child as donors'. The soundtrack for the campaign was written and recorded exclusively for the campaign by Chloe Bruce-Gardyne.

The campaign will also run across cinema and out-of-home and will be supported by social and influencer activity. 

Angie Scales, Lead Nurse for Paediatric Organ Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: ‘For many children on the transplant waiting list, their only hope is the parent of another child saying ‘yes’ to organ donation at a time of immense sadness and personal grief. Yet families tell us that agreeing to organ donation can also be a source of great comfort and pride.’

‘By encouraging more young people and their families to confirm their support for organ donation on the NHS Organ Donor Register, we hope to be able to save more lives of children, both today and in the future.’

Laura Saraiva and Charli Plant, creative leads behind the campaign at Wunderman Thompson UK, added: ‘This has been one of the most emotionally challenging but most rewarding campaigns we have ever worked on. Children on the transplant list wait for months, sometimes years, but this isn’t something that many people are aware of.

‘We saw an opportunity to shine a light on the children waiting for an organ transplant in a place where they do a lot of that waiting. We’ve been blown away by people’s generosity in helping to bring this to life, especially when it came to creating the hundreds of dolls. Working with the families was heartbreaking at times, we can’t even imagine what they must be going through, but we hope this campaign does their stories justice, raises awareness, and, crucially, encourages more parents to consider adding their children to the NHS Organ Donor Register’.

The campaign has been led by Wunderman Thompson UK, supported by other WPP agencies including global communications agency, BCW, and media agency, Wavemaker.  

To learn more and add your child to the NHS Organ Donor Register, click here



Creative agency: Wunderman Thompson UK 

Executive Creative Director: Tom Drew

Creative Director: Chermine Assadian

Creative Lead: Charli Plant

Creative Lead: Laura Saraiva

Business Lead: Helen Lee

Business Director: Harriet Buchanan

Senior Account Manager: Kat Sarantopoulou

Senior Strategist: Bishan Morgan

Senior Social Strategist: James Treen

Lead Designer: Jacqui Stetcher

Head of Artworking: Nick Firth

Project Manager: Yasmine Tawil

Senior Project Manager: Hazel Coleman

Senior Project Manager: Victoria Thorniley

Senior Producer: Kat Perry, Sara Blackett

TV Producer: Claire Proudfoot

Senior Creative Producer: Tom Lawrence

Production Assistant: Renata Gheller

Assistant Producer: Isabel Chapman

Head of Content Production: Bella Danon

Creative Services Director: Maxene Edgehill

Senior Creative Technologist: Jono Hunt

Lead Editor: Daryl Yeoman

Editor: Melanie Valera

Broadcast Affairs Manager: Steve McIntyre

Senior UI Director: Cal Carmichael

UX Director: Nicola Jenkins

QA Tester: Abbas Shah

Assistant Photographer: Melissa Nuhich

Chief Financial Officer: Julian Gautier 

Associate Director, Marketing: Jenny Patterson

 Media agency: Wavemaker UK

Client lead: Louise Rowcliffe

Media lead: Hannah Putham

Head of Print Brands & Partner Engagement: Emma Dibben

Planning Manager: Ailsa Mckendrick-Hyman

 PR agency: BCW

Account Manager: Dave Creasey

Senior Account Director: Camille Bodet

Head of Strategic Media: Jamie Doward

 Music agency: Sonicbrand

Music written and performed by Chloe Bruce-Gardyne

 Artworking: Hogarth

Retouching: Morph Retouch

 Photographer/director: Julian Ward

Production & prop styling: Kat Perry

Production Assist: Pat Sampson

Set design & build: The Set Guys

BTS videographer: Christian Macdonald


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