Propellernet takes on The Creative Shootout final for Carers UK

In January, we were finalists in the Creative Shootout: a full-on day of creativity and brilliant ideas for an even better cause. Our Creative Director Richard Paul recounts the day, what we came up with and what we learnt… 


It’s been a few weeks now since myself, Abi Bennetts, Maddie Davies and Chloe Tickner took part in The Creative Shootout 2024, hosted at BAFTA 195 and I think we’ve all just about come down from it.  

A day where you’re handed a brief, given four hours to come up with a creative response to it and then present that idea to a 300-strong audience of industry peers was a nerve-wracking but hugely rewarding experience – and now the nerves and stress levels have settled, it’s one we’d hope to do all over again in the future.  

But if you’ve never been or taken part, you’re probably wondering what the Creative Shootout actually is, and why agencies would put themselves under all that pressure in the first place?! 

What is the Creative Shootout? 

To use their words, it’s the ‘UK’s leading done in a day creative-for-good awards, that tests the mettle of the UK’s best creative agencies on a real brief from a charity of the year.  

What that translates to, is an 11am briefing with the chosen charity of the year, followed by the fastest four hours of your life, where your team builds out an idea into a presentation, ready to give to an audience who are waiting to be wowed by some stand-out creative ideas. There’s a live audience vote, there’re questions from an esteemed panel of judges and there’re obviously eight finalist agencies all aiming to present that winning idea. 

Having been in the audience in 2023 and then on the stage in 2024, I’d recommend it to anyone, but the most important thing about the whole night, is the chosen charity… 

This year the focus was on Carers UK, and their mission to help the unpaid carers of the country: the people that are caring not as a career, but because a family member or friend is in need of it. This can of course lead to this person all of a sudden needing to juggle their role as a carer with their actual job and other commitments, as well as creating a strain on finances, mental and even physical wellbeing (if your mornings and evenings are now being spent caring – the first thing to go will be the gym or the regular 5k run!) 

There’s an estimated 10.6 million unpaid carers in the UK, and the biggest challenge for Carers UK is getting millions of these people to actually realise that they are carers, and get the support they deserve. An aim that became crucial on the day… 

It all starts with an entry 

But first, how did we actually get there? There’s only room for eight finalists on the night, so back in November, we put ourselves forward against the brief of creating a one-minute entry video, that on one hand would highlight our creativity as an agency, but on the other, show that we understand Carers UK and their audience of unpaid carers across the country. 

Playing on the fact that an unpaid carer will have less free time than most of us, which is at odds with the hustle culture ‘gurus’ of the modern day that lead you to believe everyone should be doing even more with their time, we created a video from a montage of TikTok videos that showed the stark difference between the 24 hours that influencers claim to have, and the reality of the 24hrs that carers have. 

A Cup of Care 

Fast forward to the 25th January and the brief on the big day was all about reducing the amount of time it takes for someone who is providing care to recognise themselves as a carer. Currently, it takes an average of two years for someone to realise they’re a carer, so in short, the brief was to cut that time in half. How were we going to do that? 

Our idea was simple: with tea. 

Why tea? Everyone in the UK loves a cup of tea. It’s something we can all actually agree on as a very divided nation – and when you think about it, the act of making someone a cup of tea is a base level example of showing care for someone – be it in the office making the tea round, or at home. 

But one thing that isn’t great about tea, is when you run out of it. It’s never good to be staring an empty box of tea in the face, so with Yorkshire playing home to one of the highest populations of unpaid carers in the UK and also the nation’s favourite tea brand, we proposed a partnership between Carers UK and Yorkshire Tea.  

Together, they would launch the biggest multipack of tea ever sold. 

A world record breaker coming in at 6,000 bags strong, the massively oversized pack (the largest multipack you can currently get your hands on offers around 1,000 bags of tea) would naturally gain media attention and give tea-loving Brits all the tea they could ever want – but also lead the conversation to a much more important question: why 6,000 bags? 

We drink tea every day, but at the same time, 6,000 more people become unpaid carers every day too. 

So while the conversation and attention would be grabbed by this huge multipack of dreams, the real talking point would be about the sheer amount of unpaid carers there are in the UK – helping more people to ask themselves the question ‘did I become a carer today?’ or yesterday, or a year ago. 

Our idea didn’t just end with a massive limited edition bag of tea either, as we also proposed using the little cardboard labels on standard bags of tea as an additional opportunity to catch carers when on a much-needed tea break, with the labels providing advice and clear calls to action to help them seek support and again, reach that recognition phase sooner. 

Finally, this launch would also mark an annual Care For A Cuppa Day, where the healthy £500,000 budget offered by The Creative Shootout would see celebrity carers such as Kate Garraway making cuppas at local tea rooms and again, encourage a wider conversation around the millions of unpaid carers of the country, and the support they can get. 

How did our idea fare? 

In a nutshell, we felt that while it currently takes two years for someone to recognise themselves as a carer, we could help to significantly reduce that time in the two minutes it takes to make a cup of tea.  

The audience seemed to agree, with our tea-fuelled campaign getting the highest audience vote on the night, which felt like a major seal of approval, especially when we were up against some other incredibly strong creative work on the night – including the deserving winners MullenLowe – as well as being judged by a notoriously brutal Creative Shootout audience! 

What did we learn? 

While we didn’t come away with a trophy, there were tons of learnings from taking part that can be applied to a day-to-day digital PR role… 

Rapid ideation 

This is a technique we already use in the team but there is basically some weird science behind the fact that if you put your brain under a bit of pressure, ideas can start to come easily and in just a few minutes, you can have a page of strong thought-starters.  

We obviously had four hours on the day, but I even find that giving yourself fifteen minutes before going to lunch or finishing work for the day can be a great way to quickly get some initial thoughts down, that you can revisit later on, or the next day. Yes, there’s probably going to be some absolute garbage there too, but all you need is one good thing! 

Prep prep prep 

Even for something as quickfire as this, preparation is always key. We knew in advance that Carers UK were the chosen charity of the year, so we spent the weeks leading up to the big day getting our heads into the brand and the challenges faced by unpaid carers in 2024. Our strategy team helped with insights from YouGov which were invaluable on the day, and going in with all of that prior knowledge made things a LOT better than they could have been if we’d done none of that prep beforehand. 

The same goes for anything in a PR role. Whether you’re coming up with ideas or presenting them to a client, doing that prior research and prep to get your head into the subject is a must – or the ideas/connections you’ll generate will likely be very surface level. 

Teamwork DOES make the dream work 

On certain projects there can be a tendency to take too much on yourself, especially if you’re in a more senior position. You could be inclined to come up with the idea, write the presentation and execute the campaign all by yourself, but the Creative Shootout shines a light on the fact that working as a team is always the best route to success. 

As a mostly remote team, it was great to actually all be in a room together, bounce ideas off each other and work together to get to that end goal. We all played to our strengths when it came to developing the idea, creating slides and the quick designs we needed to bring the idea to life – and the same goes for the regular role of a PR. Certain people will have more of a flair for writing, while others will be more skilled when it comes to data analysis or the actual outreach itself. It’s all about using these different skillsets to your advantage, delegating properly and never thinking you can just plough through on your own and reach the same result.   

Charities deserve more support 

Finally, the Creative Shootout is a great example that we as an industry can be doing more to support the charities that need it – be it from a marketing standpoint or simply by fundraising. Speaking with some of the Carers UK team, due to budget constraints, time and knowledge, they had never had the opportunity to even think about campaigns like the ones being presented to them through the duration of the evening, and it really helped to show the possibilities of using creativity for good. 

This is one of our goals at Propellernet, as we are currently working alongside the likes of FareShare Sussex & Surrey to raise funds for them, but also upskill their internal marketing teams across a range of disciplines, including PR and creative. 

Johnny Pitt and the team at Launch have taken things a step further with their night of creativity, competition and inspiring ideas, and we’re excited to see the good that its future instalments can continue to do!