DEC social content campaign: Helping to raise over £280M for emergency humanitarian response around the world

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) provides swift humanitarian aid worldwide in times of crisis. Our pop-up content studio helps them raise awareness and funds by creating, making and spreading targeted content to the right people, on the right platforms, as soon as disaster strikes.

The Backstory

When disaster strikes anywhere in the world, the Disasters Emergency Committee, or DEC, unites 14 UK-based aid agencies on a national effort to collect the funds needed to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the victims. Funds are raised largely thanks to the generosity of the UK public, and then distributed among the DEC member agencies best placed to deliver quick and effective aid to those in most need.

The Insight

Each DEC appeal depends on fast, effective and targeted communication. As soon as a humanitarian crisis emerges, the DEC needs to educate the UK public about the response efforts that need to happen, and how individuals can help by making donations.

In other words, the DEC needs an agile team capable of producing compelling and targeted content at scale, at short notice. On top of that, they need a team who can deliver this content to the right people, on the right platforms, as fast as possible. That’s why, at each appeal, we move our expertise–and part of our team to the DEC HQ.

The Creative

To pull off a targeted, strategic content plan while racing against time, we draw on many of our capabilities:

An agile workflow geared to crisis support

We understand the urgent and unpredictable nature of the DEC’s work. Our agile approach enables us to move part of our team into their office to better service the fast changing nature of a disaster appeal in a fast turnaround setting, every time our client needs us. 

Live streaming to enable real-time communication

To inform the UK public in real time about what’s happening, answer their questions, and link them to the field, we organise live streams from the DEC HQ and from the places in crisis. This enables our client to share the progress of appeals with supporters and provide accountability, explaining how their donations are helping victims in practice. Our live streams enable authentic stories to emerge from disaster zones so the larger public can learn about developments on the ground as they unfold.

Engaging celebrities to drive awareness

Celebrity endorsement can help drive awareness and fundraising to DEC appeals, and we’re always ready to welcome them to our pop-up content studio to maximise that. We’ve worked with the likes of Keira Knightly, Bear Grylls, and Daniel Craig to spread the word about our client’s appeals, resulting in 100,00’s of views.

Co-creating with influencers to spread the word

To disseminate our client’s message beyond their channels, we collaborated with influencers such as award winning design blogger and Instagrammer Geraldine Tan, internationally acclaimed professional Pâtissier Eric Lanlard, and the popular top-10-videos YouTube channel Alltime10s–creating content that appeals to a widely varied audience. 

We also organised fast turnaround initiatives, such as ‘Hack the appeal”, inviting YouTubers into the London YouTube space so they could create content about DEC appeals with our support. The content resulting from our initiatives attracted hundreds of thousands of views and tens of thousands of clicks through to the DEC appeal landing page.

Running events that mobilise influencer support

Key to our approach towards influencer collaboration is co-creation: we want influencers to create authentic content that resonates with their audience, but we also provide support to ensure that key DEC messaging is passed on and remains true to our client’s vision. 

But after collaborating with influencers, we realised that one of the DEC’s main challenges was not only messaging but timing: how to mobilise these content creators at short notice to get immediate support when promoting appeals?


To answer this question, we created an event for high profile online influencers to educate them on our client’s work, the kind of humanitarian aid they could enable by supporting these campaigns, and to establish a channel for communication among influencers and our client, leaving a seed for future collaborations between them.

Delivering long-term value through social content strategy sessions

To empower all DEC member agencies to launch more cohesive content during appeals, we delivered video social content strategy workshops. We tailored our sessions to educate the charities involved on how they can create YouTube programming calendars, harness user generated content, practice social listening, create targeted funnels, and test new asset formats in the future, when running awareness campaigns online. 

Sweating the assets across social media

By continuously analysing our performance in real time during each campaign, we aimed to improve our targeting strategy and make the most of our assets through time. During the Nepal Earthquake Appeal, for example, we launched the hashtag #Shaken and prompted social media users to create and share mandalas as a way of raising awareness about the appeal among their digital communities. During the Yemen campaign, we launched #HelpFeedYemen to encourage Instagrammers to talk about the appeal with their followers by sharing an empty plate in a creative way that resonated with their audience. Initiatives such as these have led to celebrity, influencer and brand involvement in our campaigns, helping us spread our client’s appeals to social media users.

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Engaging with social listening, we identified topics that we could explore to keep our audience engaged at key stages of the appeal by creating assets with the limited content we had at hand and . One example is a short explanatory video about Plumpy’Nut–a cheap and nutritious food supplement delivered to those in severe malnutrition conditions by DEC member agencies, thanks to public donations.

Collaborating with other creative agencies to take online campaigns offline

14 charities now sit under the umbrella of the DEC. So when an appeal is launched, the DEC works with a number of agencies to deliver a cohesive message to raise the maximum amount of money possible. We integrate those elements in our own content too, to ensure cohesion across the campaign in its multiple environments. We have seen our work translated everywhere from TV to billboards, to the tube .

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Keeping the content alive by shooting original stories on the ground

By heroing the amazing efforts of fundraisers between appeals, we continue the conversation about the DEC’s work.

Three months after the Nepal Earthquake Appeal, we surprised Julius–a Phillipino citizen who, touched by the help provided by the DEC to his own country after the 2013 typhoon, helped raise funds for the Nepal Earthquake Appeal as his way of paying it forward–on one of his training runs in Richmond Park.

We then went on to film his journey in the Himalayan country as he saw firsthand where the donations to the appeal were making a difference–and captured the touching moment when the Nepalese people expressed their gratitude to him.

The Evidence

So far, we’ve worked on six DEC appeals, helping to raise over £280 million to support emergency humanitarian response around the world. Our pop-up content studio has enabled influencer participation and celebrity endorsement for these important appeals. We’ve been able to drive widespread public engagement by amplifying DEC appeals with creativity and strategic thinking and we’ve transformed fundraising messages into explosive awareness campaigns that reached the right people, at the right time, on the right platforms–and continue to spread long after we’ve moved back into our own office.

“distillery are superb! Having spent five years working together across six DEC appeals, I can wholeheartedly recommend them. I’ve been constantly impressed with their sheer creativity, unrelenting focus under pressure, and exceptionally high quality work, which has been unmatched in my 15 years working in digital.”
— Leon Green, Digital Manager, Disasters Emergency Committee

The Magic

Each DEC appeal has drawn on so many of distillery’s capabilities to create, make and spread the right content, the right way, while racing against time.We’re proud of the hard work that goes into helping the DEC assist those in need—as well as our partnership of four and a half years and counting.

To learn more about the things we can do for your brand, please get in touch.