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FCB INFERNO, London / BIG ISSUE / 2016


Silver Cannes Lions
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Everyday, commuters were spending more than the price of the magazine on coffee (£2.99 per day vs. £2.50 for the magazine). We thought, what if that money being spent on coffee could help the homeless?

So, we launched Change Please, a new coffee business staffed by the homeless to help the homeless. We recruited homeless people, housed them, trained them as baristas and paid them London Living Wage. We gave them carts to sell on the streets of London, integrating them back in to society.

Change Please was “Empowered by The Big Issue” and was designed to be a high quality coffee brand first, with the social element remaining subtle until after their purchase.

We believed that if we could get people to change where they buy their coffee, we could change the world.


We launched on 23rd November with one cart. To avoid the risk of a late November launch getting lost in the festive period, we adapted our strategy to have a short-lead news focus, creating a big bang on launch day and throughout the week.

The story was tailored by publication:

• National print: new coffee brand using nation’s caffeine addiction to give back to society

• Broadcast: interviews with the key spokespeople, on location with the carts.

• London: programme launch and homeless statistics

• Consumer: how changing a daily habit can make a big difference – real stories

In October and November we briefed the spokespeople and prepared the assets to allow us to move quickly and efficiently on the news story. The Times had an exclusive feature announcing the project before it spread to multiple other titles. We then supported multiple broadcast outlets at the first cart in Covent Garden on launch day.



- 43 new stories on launch day – 61 in first week – including Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, Evening Standard, Mashable, Vice, Time Out.

- Broadcast including BBC Radio Five Live, BBC London, ITV News, ABC Australia, Russia Today.

- Strong key message uptake with 100% landing social benefits and link to The Big Issue.

- Audience reach of 600million+

- Coverage continued beyond launch week including a BBC Documentary featuring the initiative that aired in March.


- 118,000 coffees sold across six locations

- 500 bags of coffee sold online every week


- 12 people off the street in five months saving the UK government £360,000 based on their estimated £30k cost per homeless person

- Significant shift in behaviour where coffee carts are present emphasised by sales

- Investment from major corporations including Virgin, Barclays and Linklaters

- Coffee to be distributed in major retailer in 2016


Change Please is a new initiative conceived in partnership between Big Issue and Old Spike Coffee. It was created to refresh the image of Big Issue and increase the impact the brand has on helping the homeless. It was developed with very limited budget and launched primarily with a PR push to show how the brand is taking a large step forward.

PR was placed at the heart of the communication strategy with an idea that would indicate a fresh direction for the brand as it approaches its 25th Anniversary.


The target audience was the London coffee drinker and we needed to quickly get this new coffee brand on the map. The High Street in the UK is dominated by three brands, Starbucks, Costa and Café Nero and there was frustration with the status quo. We wanted to compete with established chains and offer people the chance to make a difference to society with the daily act of buying a coffee.

Key messages were:

1. The social benefits of choosing Change Please vs. a competitor

2. The quality of the coffee vs. the High Street

3. The role of The Big Issue

We prioritised conversations with top-tier (broadsheet) national print, online, broadcast and London media. This aligned with our primary audience, enabled us to achieve reach and drive traffic to the carts. Secondary media targets included lifestyle and trend titles to demonstrate the bold new direction of Big Issue.


The Big Issue is 25 years old and has sold 200 million magazines but the world has changed since its inception; magazine sales are in decline and free titles dominate. The brand was under pressure so we needed to find a new way to connect with our audience and drive brand re-appraisal.

Homelessness is at record levels in the UK, efforts to tackle it have stalled and the stigma attached to the problem has increased. It was clear that a new approach to the problem was needed.

Budgets were almost non-existent so we needed to create a model that could quickly become self-sustaining.

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