At the end of last year, Sadiq Khan launched his anti-knife crime campaign with a video aimed at spreading the message among young people, that ‘London Needs You Alive’. Four months later, the video has received a meagre 11,000 views on YouTube, equating to just 1.7% of the 655,000 teenagers living in London today. With the best of intentions, Khan’s campaign does not appear to have triggered the desired effect, and has received public backlash both across social media platforms and in the press. So why has this seemingly positive and inspirational campaign missed the mark?
On the surface, the video has the components of an impactful advert; a fast beat, an urban setting, young people laughing and smiling, and a catchy slogan. But it feels disingenuous and disconnected from its subject matter, and undermines the complexity and severity of youth violence in the capital. We do not want the Mayor’s campaign to feel the same as a brand trying to speak to young people, as this results in the subjugation of the issue. It is undeniable that the video is well produced, however, the question has to be whether it is really making any kind of significant impact in preventing knife crime.
The media strategy deployed similarly appears to subscribe to the formula adopted by many brands today. Unsurprisingly, this comprises of a campaign hash tag, a dedicated Instagram page, and a selection of influencers used to bolster credibility and reach amongst teenagers.
Whilst it is not uncommon for brands today to set up Instagram pages specifically to support campaigns, they rarely work effectively. They tend to start off relatively strong, with frequent posts and good quality content, however they start to wane in relevancy as the campaign lifetime goes on. The ‘LNYA’ page looks as though it has already have fallen victim to this pattern, with the last post uploaded nearly two months ago on the 30th January. In the knowledge that the campaign was due to receive six months’ paid support starting November, it appears as if this may have been cut off earlier than planned. The content itself lacks depth and inspiration, with half of the posts simply superimposing the campaign slogan on top of an image. With a limited following of only 1,300 people, the lack of impact that this campaign has had is obvious.
A hash tag can be an effective way to create traction for a message, yet the benefits are lost if few people decide to use it. Only around 170 Tweets have featured the slogan ‘London Needs You Alive’ since the start of the campaign in mid-November, with only around 40 mentions so far in 2018. Even Khan’s efforts to employ influencers appears to have backfired, with The Mayor of London’s office re-tweeting Tweets from Jessie J, John Boyega and Lethal Bizzle, only to find out that the Tweets were fake and therefore subsequently had to be taken down. This is, of course, an innocent mistake on behalf of the Mayor’s Office, however it just serves to fuel the fire of backlash that this campaign
Perhaps the most crucial mistake that was made is that the video solely focuses on why
you shouldn’t carry a knife. This angle feels far too simplistic, however, and even Khan himself alludes to this in his MOPAC report, through the admission that young people are aware of the implications of carrying a knife, yet choose to do it anyway. The focus should therefore be on educating around why young people do carry knives, and informing the capital on what can be and is being done to prevent this. You can even take this one step further, and argue that the issue actually has nothing to do with knives, and that it is a symptom of young people feeling disenfranchised with
society, and losing hope of another way of life.
It is exactly the complexity of the issue, which provokes me to arrive at a conclusion that an advertising campaign was not a necessary arm to Khan’s combat strategy. In contrary to raising awareness, the campaign has received minimal exposure with largely negative feedback. The overarching sentiment that I have interpreted from social media, is that the campaign has actually served to distract from and discredit the work that Khan is doing ‘off camera’ to address knife crime. Upon reflection, I am left feeling that the money spent on the ‘London Needs You Alive’ advertising campaign could have been far better spent, on helping to fund a project that would have had meaningful impact on preventing and tackling the issue of knife crime amongst young people in our
By Sacha Power X JAGS FOUNDATION