Get in touch

Charlie Is In Control: Tackling Cocaine-Related Violence With Leicestershire Police

Step into a world of crime prevention as we dive into our campaign for Leicestershire Police: ‘Charlie is in Control’. In this article, we explore how we collaborated with law enforcement to combat the surge in violent crime linked to cocaine use.

Step into a world of crime prevention as we dive into our campaign for Leicestershire Police: ‘Charlie is in Control’. In this article, we explore how we collaborated with law prevention and support to reduce the surge in violent crime linked to cocaine use.

Leicestershire Police embarked on a mission to reduce the impact of drug-related violence, aiming to take the power out of ‘Charlie’s’ hands. If you’re interested in learning about the strategies, challenges, and triumphs behind this exciting marketing campaign, read on!

The Brief & Objectives

The aim of this project is to decrease low-level violent crimes associated with cocaine use in the night-time economy. The initiative was to raise awareness and prompt individuals to reconsider the consequences of drug consumption, encouraging them to make more informed decisions.

The primary objectives were to reduce cocaine use in nightlife settings, build awareness and urging users to consider the consequences of using cocaine. Secondly, we wanted to increase engagement with Turning Point, offering support during and after custody, for those who need it.

Building A Strategy

We started by crafting a strong strategy for the campaign. We analysed the force’s data, including reports, audience demographics and past campaign activities, as well as visiting custody and watching footage of the behaviour of users. We also dived into the current academic literature to learn more about substance misuse to get a better understanding from a behavioural science point of view.

A great opportunity came as we were able to hold a workshop with Leicester Police, Turning Point and our team to provide valuable input. From this, we were able to identify the capabilities, opportunities and motivations that influence cocaine use and subsequent violent crime. This allowed us to apply the COM-B model to help guide our approach. If you’re new here and don’t know what COM-B is, head over to our previous blog to learn more about it.

This process enabled us to gain clear insights into the behaviours that we were aiming to change, allowing us to focus our efforts for maximum impact. This stage was also key as it allowed us to take it forward as inspiration for messaging and creative brainstorming as we could take first-hand experiences and insights forward.

From all our research we were able to brainstorm and craft five different concepts. Of these concepts, we were able to select two which we believed would have the most impact on changing users' behaviour and thoughts on cocaine use. They both shared a similar narrative around the harms of cocaine usage and the resulting behaviours’ impact on users’ lives & ambitions. The concepts focused on the targeted interventions, highlighting tissues surrounding cocaine usage.

To effectively change behaviour, we developed the concept to be persuasive, explicitly illustrating what cocaine is believed to be, along with the contrasting and confronting real-life outcomes of the usage of this drug.

We used this framework to help craft creative, messaging and a plan for all channels.

Leics Police web image

The Idea

Next, we worked on our concept for the campaign, using all of our research findings. We wanted to demonstrate both the short and long-term control cocaine can have over users. From our research, we were shown how it can control users all the way into custody.

From this, ‘Charlie Is In Control’ was born.

We turned cocaine into a character, Charlie; by doing this we could clearly show his influence and personality. Charlie appears as a manipulative character who controls users like a puppet. He’s slight, greasy and wears a dirty white tracksuit. Put simply, no one in a normal state would trust him. By humanising the drug we were able to demonstrate to the audience that they wouldn’t allow a person to manipulate them the way Charlie does, so why would they let a dangerous drug do so?

The Creative Outcomes

We began to storyboard a video for the campaign of a man on a night out being controlled like a puppet by Charlie. The man was being spurred on to react to situations in an aggressive way, which saw him arrested and spend the night in custody. You can see the final video here of how we brought him to life.

We also produced messaging for before, during and after the night out, encouraging viewers to think twice about taking cocaine and urging them not to let ‘Charlie’ be in control.

Our messaging changed depending on where in the cycle the audience was. Before the night out the main message was ‘Planning a night with Charlie? Don’t let him take control. Take control of Charlie. Here's how’. Another message urged people to “ease off before it kicks off”, and the final ad told viewers not to let 'Charlie' didn't ruin their night. All assets included a clear call to action, and urged the audience to seek free and friendly advice.

Our research and concept development identified appealing creative styles from popular culture which would resonate with our audience. We think this made a bigger difference than showing just another shocking image as many campaigns do.

Overall, the ‘Charlie is in Control’ campaign with Leicestershire Police was a significant initiative aimed at reducing low-level crime associated with cocaine use. Through a strong strategy built on robust research and collaboration, we were able to craft compelling messaging and creative to challenge people's perceptions and encourage informed decision-making. The campaign resulted in over 735,000 impressions, reached over 295,000 individuals and received over 2,000 link clicks.

By humanising the drug through the character Charlie, we conveyed a powerful message about the consequences of cocaine use, urging individuals to take control of their choices. The success of this campaign highlights the importance of proactive measures in tackling substance abuse and promoting positive behavioural change. It was a rewarding project to be a part of, contributing to the ongoing efforts in drug-related crime prevention and improving community safety in the nightlife space.

“The Together Agency fully grasped our brief in developing a campaign that supports the reduction and prevention of low-level violent crime in the night-time economy as a result of cocaine use. Their comprehensive and efficient support to produce an engaging product for an exceptionally challenging audience group (male 18-30) has enabled Leicestershire Police to promote an impactful message across Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland. The Charlie campaign has taken risks to creatively mould a message which holds longevity and has thorough support from our partners.”

- Lindsey Sheffield, Campaigns and Engagement Manager at Leicestershire Police
news and insights