Region(s): Europe
Issue(s): Health
Author: Nik Done Sponsoring organization: NGO Organization(s): Unity
Agency: Unity Contact: Nik Done nik@hellounity.com

Campaign Info

Scope of Good Practice

A campaign to encourage youngsters to stop using sunbeds. Independent research proved its effectiveness.

The Problem Addressed by the Campaign

Despite new legislation banning under 18 year-olds from using sunbeds, many were still visiting salons in an effort to achieve “that glow."

Yet, research worryingly showed that using a sunbed for the first time before the age of 35 increased the risk of malignant melanoma — the most serious form of skin cancer — by 75 percent. 

The brief was to:

- Engage young (16-24 year-old) females and a secondary audience of older ‘influencers’ (female friends and family members allowing or encouraging sunbed use), largely —but not exclusively — in the North.

- Bring about measurable attitudinal and behavioural change, (i.e. the cessation of sunbed use).

Background Research

With an appearance-obsessed audience prone to switching off preachy health messaging and possessing an attitude of invincibility, the team focused on a pure-play vanity message — that using a sunbed would make them look old before their time.

It was key that the tan was not made to be the enemy, but rather show that they could still get the look they desired, but without the health threat.

By placing UV skin scanning cameras at the heart of the campaign the team was able to graphically show what lurked beneath the skin.

To an audience obsessed with appearance — and known to spend hours hunting for imaginary wrinkles — this was irresistible, as a focus group confirmed.

By teaming up with the UK’s number one skin clinic, sk:n, to offer free skin assessments, the cost barrier was removed,  the risk was personalized and with 37 clinics nationwide it was accessible to the masses.

Channeling findings from the focus group, the team offered everyone ‘two-for-none’ vouchers, meaning they could share the experience with a friend or an older family member/friend could accompany their young relatives/friends.


The team chose to borrow from text speak and came up with "R UV UGLY?" The play on words leveraged the ‘UV’ in sunbeds but also posed a question that they were able to help answer.

With programs such as TOWIE fueling the nation’s tanning obsession, it was key to engage these influencers and get their help to position fake tan as a decent, viable alternative.   

Secured talent (all for free) included Binky Felstead (Made in Chelsea), Maria Fowler and Sam & Billie Faiers (TOWIE), Gemma Merna (Hollyoaks), Kym Marsh (Coronation Street), and singer Paloma Faith. Their involvement was promoted through interview placements, skin assessments and by encouraging them to tweet to drive fans to the Facebook voucher page.


To take the campaign digital, where the target audience would be sure to see it, a Facebook page was created. It contained information on the campaign, a video of tanning tips featuring Made in Chelsea’s Binky Felstead, and — importantly — a text/email voucher for users to claim their ‘two-for-none.'

The campaign was also supported with a ‘digital photobooth’ experiential campaign in Manchester (Arndale Centre) and Newcastle (Gateshead Metro Centre). A customized photobooth was created, complete with UV skin scanner, which enabled the team to engage young females in high foot traffic locations.

Again, this tapped into the vanity strategy but also another trend in sharable imagery. Supporting media relations drove participation, and participants got to take away their "R UV UGLY?" photocard and fake tan product. Users could also immediately access the campaign via Facebook and encourage friends to sign up too.


Other key influencers — namely other young people — were also secured and placed in the media as case studies alongside the voucher offer.  Success included a double page feature in "The Sun." Advertorials in women’s magazines (including "Heat" and "Closer") generated further awareness and engagement via QR codes, short links and text CTAS making it simple for people to access the voucher via their phones.

Supporting this, two news stories designed to make sunbed dangers a national talking point were released.

The first focused on how friends and family were encouraging their loved ones to use sunbeds and inadvertently putting their lives at risk.

Then, building on the vanity angle, the nation’s largest model agencies (Next, IMG, Premier, etc.) were persuaded to agree to a cross-agency ban on sunbed use. With models being key influencers to the target audience, the news story was launched on the first day of London Fashion Week. The team stole the limelight, resulting in extensive national print and broadcast media coverage including the front page of the "Metro" and live broadcasts on "BBC Breakfast," "Five News" and "Sky News."  Coverage was also secured in many of the female-orientated websites read by the target audience, and youth-focused programs including "Radio 1 Newsbeat."



  • 1,648 skin scans conducted in target cities 
  • 13 celebrity supporters
  • 27 pieces of national print / online coverage including The Daily Mail, a DPS in The Sun, The Star, The Express, Metro (front page), MSN, Chat, Closer, Heat, Reveal, Now
  • 131 pieces of regional press coverage including Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo, Yorkshire Post
  • 553 online pieces of coverage
  • 75 pieces of broadcast coverage including ITV Daybreak, Sky News, Radio 1, BBC Breakfast
  • Over 2,000,000 Twitter impressions for #RUVUGLY and over 200 tweets from celebs/influencers with 1000+ followers


  • Overall 75 percent of sunbed users who, before the scan, said they expected to use sunbeds more or the same in the future changed their minds immediately after their scan and said they expected to use them less or not at all.
  • Immediately after the scan, half of the sunbed users under the age of 25 said they would not use sunbeds in the future, compared to 22 percent who had said this before the scan.
  • Via a follow-up survey conducted eight weeks after the campaign closed, the team was able to measure sustained behavior change, demonstrated by 46 percent of respondents reporting they’d stopped using sunbeds or used sunbeds less than they did before.

The team hit and massively exceeded all client performance indicators at below the target cost of £1.50 per engagement and delivered independently verified changes in consumer behaviour. Due to its overwhelming success, Unity has been engaged to revive "R UV Ugly?" for the Scottish market.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Such was the success that "R UV UGLY?" is being rolled out for a second year in England and also a similar version will be implemented in Scotland.

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