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Screaming for screening

Merlin’s London Dungeon teamed up with social agency Rocket to help young adults improve their sexual health in a highly innovative campaign. Merlin’s Hannah Ferguson tells us more


Victorian-era England was known for its high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, with syphilis and gonorrhoea causing serious health problems across all social classes. Fast forward to 2021 where most chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses were in people aged 15 to 24 years, with a 13 per cent decline in testing and a 3 per cent increase in diagnosis.

As Merlin’s London Dungeon attraction is based on the darker side of the city’s history, has an edgy brand and is highly popular with young adults, its marketing team saw a unique opportunity to get the message out about the need to test for STIs, and teamed up with youth marketing agency Rocket.

Partnering with sexual health charity Brook, the team developed a social media strategy spanning across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and – most successfully – TikTok, with the launch of the London Dungeon brand-first owned TikTok channel. The London Dungeon also used their actors to create educational skits within the attraction, and provided information and resources at the Dungeon’s Tavern, which was temporarily renamed The Cock and Beaver.

Here Hannah Ferguson talks us through the campaign, and why it was so effective.

What was the aim of this campaign?
We wanted to break the stigma around talking about sexual health, especially among young adults who are our core demographic.

The London Dungeon is based on dark history, and Victorian era England was well known for its high prevalence of STIs, particularly syphilis and gonorrhoea. We didn’t want history to repeat itself, as both are on the rise again in London, so we decided it was an issue we could support in the 21st century with our Screaming for Screening campaign.

Why did the London Dungeon choose Rocket and Brook as partners to get this message out to young people?
Rocket helped us launch our TikTok account in May 2021 and its team just get our brand and tone of voice. The agency has its finger on the pulse when it comes to TikTok and other social trends and instinctively knows how to make brilliant content that fits the platform. Our partnership with Rocket and Brook has been hugely successful and this particular campaign has been recognised with several awards.

The charity Brook is the only one to offer both clinical sexual health services – as well as those for education and wellbeing - for young people and its team are comfortable talking about sexual health day in, day out. Brook was open to our ideas and could see the benefits of getting involved in a partnership that would help them talk to people outside their regular audience.

And why did the London Dungeon decide to do this?
The campaign dealt with an issue that has context and alliance with the historical element of our attraction. Although STIs affect all ages, they mainly impact young adults between 15 to 24 years, which is the age of many of our guests. When we first launched the campaign back in 2021 (it’s had further bursts since then) our seasonal show was around Victorian surgery and had a health focus. We used our well-known characters, such as the Plague Doctor, to bring the topic to life. Our brand tone of voice and edgy approach means we can talk to young people on their level and tackle the language barrier head on.

What were the results?
We had a dedicated area within the London Dungeon ‘tavern’, which we renamed ‘The Cock & Beaver’, where we provided resources for guests and had staff on hand to answer questions about the campaign. We found that young people were really open to asking questions and took an interest in the resources we had available. Meanwhile, our TikTok campaign got lots of traction and we were delighted the conversation was flowing.

Can you highlight any particularly successful elements of this campaign?
TikTok was a new social channel for London Dungeon and being on it felt innovative and exciting. It’s been a huge growth channel that we use predominantly for awareness and engagement with our audience. We’ve really enjoyed following trends and making TikToks, as opposed to just creating adverts; it brings the brand to life in a new way. We especially loved the skits we created with our Victorian sex doctor, where we pushed the boundaries in an educational but fun way. We were also able to remain inclusive by using the terms ‘Villagers with Vaginas’ and ‘Peasants with Penises’ – not being too gender specific was our goal and it really worked.

What are the implications of the success of this campaign for the attractions sector?
Hopefully we can inspire other attractions to take up their own causes. It’s also been a great business case for us internally to showcase the benefits of branching out and engaging with a new audience, even if it feels scary and out of our comfort zone.

Does the London Dungeon have any plans for similar campaigns in the future?
Yes. We’re entering the third year of our partnership with Brook, so will continue to make great content – but we’re always on the lookout for new partners, as the landscape is ever-changing and we want to stay relevant.

Photo: Hannah Ferguson

"We especially loved the skits we created with our Victorian sex doctor using the terms Villagers with Vaginas and Peasants with Penises – not being too gender specific was our goal and it really worked" – Hannah Ferguson, head of marketing at Merlin Entertainments

The team used social media to get the message across Credit: Photo: Rocket
The campaign has won several awards Credit: Photo: Rocket
The London Dungeon is continuing its partnership with health charity Brook Credit: Photo: Rocket
The tone was fun, direct and cheeky Credit: Photo: Rocket
Skits were designed especially for the campaign Credit: Photo: Rocket
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Attractions Management
2023 issue 1

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Screaming for screening

Marketing

Screaming for screening


Merlin’s London Dungeon teamed up with social agency Rocket to help young adults improve their sexual health in a highly innovative campaign. Merlin’s Hannah Ferguson tells us more

With its edgy brand, the London Dungeon appeals to young people Photo: Merlin Entertainments
The team used social media to get the message across Photo: Rocket
The campaign has won several awards Photo: Rocket
The London Dungeon is continuing its partnership with health charity Brook Photo: Rocket
The tone was fun, direct and cheeky Photo: Rocket
Skits were designed especially for the campaign Photo: Rocket

Victorian-era England was known for its high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, with syphilis and gonorrhoea causing serious health problems across all social classes. Fast forward to 2021 where most chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses were in people aged 15 to 24 years, with a 13 per cent decline in testing and a 3 per cent increase in diagnosis.

As Merlin’s London Dungeon attraction is based on the darker side of the city’s history, has an edgy brand and is highly popular with young adults, its marketing team saw a unique opportunity to get the message out about the need to test for STIs, and teamed up with youth marketing agency Rocket.

Partnering with sexual health charity Brook, the team developed a social media strategy spanning across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and – most successfully – TikTok, with the launch of the London Dungeon brand-first owned TikTok channel. The London Dungeon also used their actors to create educational skits within the attraction, and provided information and resources at the Dungeon’s Tavern, which was temporarily renamed The Cock and Beaver.

Here Hannah Ferguson talks us through the campaign, and why it was so effective.

What was the aim of this campaign?
We wanted to break the stigma around talking about sexual health, especially among young adults who are our core demographic.

The London Dungeon is based on dark history, and Victorian era England was well known for its high prevalence of STIs, particularly syphilis and gonorrhoea. We didn’t want history to repeat itself, as both are on the rise again in London, so we decided it was an issue we could support in the 21st century with our Screaming for Screening campaign.

Why did the London Dungeon choose Rocket and Brook as partners to get this message out to young people?
Rocket helped us launch our TikTok account in May 2021 and its team just get our brand and tone of voice. The agency has its finger on the pulse when it comes to TikTok and other social trends and instinctively knows how to make brilliant content that fits the platform. Our partnership with Rocket and Brook has been hugely successful and this particular campaign has been recognised with several awards.

The charity Brook is the only one to offer both clinical sexual health services – as well as those for education and wellbeing - for young people and its team are comfortable talking about sexual health day in, day out. Brook was open to our ideas and could see the benefits of getting involved in a partnership that would help them talk to people outside their regular audience.

And why did the London Dungeon decide to do this?
The campaign dealt with an issue that has context and alliance with the historical element of our attraction. Although STIs affect all ages, they mainly impact young adults between 15 to 24 years, which is the age of many of our guests. When we first launched the campaign back in 2021 (it’s had further bursts since then) our seasonal show was around Victorian surgery and had a health focus. We used our well-known characters, such as the Plague Doctor, to bring the topic to life. Our brand tone of voice and edgy approach means we can talk to young people on their level and tackle the language barrier head on.

What were the results?
We had a dedicated area within the London Dungeon ‘tavern’, which we renamed ‘The Cock & Beaver’, where we provided resources for guests and had staff on hand to answer questions about the campaign. We found that young people were really open to asking questions and took an interest in the resources we had available. Meanwhile, our TikTok campaign got lots of traction and we were delighted the conversation was flowing.

Can you highlight any particularly successful elements of this campaign?
TikTok was a new social channel for London Dungeon and being on it felt innovative and exciting. It’s been a huge growth channel that we use predominantly for awareness and engagement with our audience. We’ve really enjoyed following trends and making TikToks, as opposed to just creating adverts; it brings the brand to life in a new way. We especially loved the skits we created with our Victorian sex doctor, where we pushed the boundaries in an educational but fun way. We were also able to remain inclusive by using the terms ‘Villagers with Vaginas’ and ‘Peasants with Penises’ – not being too gender specific was our goal and it really worked.

What are the implications of the success of this campaign for the attractions sector?
Hopefully we can inspire other attractions to take up their own causes. It’s also been a great business case for us internally to showcase the benefits of branching out and engaging with a new audience, even if it feels scary and out of our comfort zone.

Does the London Dungeon have any plans for similar campaigns in the future?
Yes. We’re entering the third year of our partnership with Brook, so will continue to make great content – but we’re always on the lookout for new partners, as the landscape is ever-changing and we want to stay relevant.

Photo: Hannah Ferguson

"We especially loved the skits we created with our Victorian sex doctor using the terms Villagers with Vaginas and Peasants with Penises – not being too gender specific was our goal and it really worked" – Hannah Ferguson, head of marketing at Merlin Entertainments


Originally published in Attractions Management 2023 issue 1

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