The Royal Flying Doctor Service

Category 10: Health organizations

Entry Name: The Royal Flying Doctor Service - Buy The Sky{" "}

The Issue.

Every year The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is the difference between life and death for thousands of people – in 2013 the service helped 295,156 people. It relies heavily on donations from the public but its donor base is ageing - 60% of its supporters are over 65, with many of these living in rural areas. The charity needed to attract and engage a younger, metro-based online donor (25-49) so we were tasked to find a new idea that would raise brand awareness, connect city people with this outback service and provide a sustainable fundraising platform.

The concept should not alienate the core donors and be simple and easy to understand.


Our strategy focused on promoting the simple and creative idea that would allow someone to buy a patch of virtual sky on 29 flight paths and enable people to become part of the RFDS team in a very real and tangible way. Donors were sent their own certificate with the unique coordinates of the virtual sky they had purchased. They were also given the option of receiving weekly flight alerts detailing the number of times RFDS flights had flown through their patch – enabling donors to see their donation at work – forming a value exchange.

In media we highlighted how the cash raised would help secure the future of the service and lead to greater investment in its fleet, infrastructure and staffing, so that more people can be helped across the 90% of Australia that the RFDS covers.


Whilst there is a huge amount of ‘goodwill’ for the brand, the RFDS had yet to devise and implement a campaign that engaged with a younger demographic. We identified that a digital campaign was needed to recruit younger supporters who had low unprompted awareness of the RFDS. Furthermore, for Australia’s growing urban population, where the finest medical service is just minutes away, the RFDS’s cause was just not on the radar. We recognised that we needed to generate greater awareness and bring people closer to the service, so they could see the life-saving care being delivered day in, day out and provide an innovative way for a new generation of Australian’s to engage with the iconic RFDS brand.


Once the creative was signed off our objectives on the limited budget during the campaign’s two month period was to achieve:

  • 40+ pieces of media coverage.
  • Minimum of 15,000 site visits.
  • A reach of 5million+ in earned media.
  • 50% of sky sales in the target demographic.



Routes were mapped and divided into precise km squares with the patches put on sale at Sky owners then receive weekly flight alerts – via Email, SMS and social media further spreading the idea.

In order to amplify media and social media appeal, a celebrity spokesperson, Matt Wright, National Geographic TV’s ‘Outback Wrangler’, was identified and secured for free. Matt aligned with the campaign messaging of the crucial health services provided to the remote Australian Outback where he lives and works presenting his popular program. We pushed the idea across identified media targets that indexed highly with our target group.

We then took the idea to Qantas to see if they would open up the idea of purchasing a ‘patch of sky’ to their frequent flyer programs. Qantas leased the RFDS’ first plane in 1928 for one guinea, so there was a strong affinity with the national flag carrier and its customers that pass over these rural communities as they move from city to city.


Working with than less than $10k in budget we looked to secure services and assets needed for the campaign for free or at cost (this is primarily a pro-bono client). For the duration of the campaign, we assigned a campaign team of three and partnered with our sister advertising agency to design the campaign website and marketing collateral, which included a planner, a creative team and two digital developers.


We needed something iconic and uniquely Australian that would connect city dwellers with the RFDS and what is more iconic or relevant than selling patches of the vast and beautiful Australian sky. It is free and in limitless supply.

The Buy The Sky initiative is the largest and most innovative fundraising campaign ever undertaken by the RFDS, urging donators to purchase a patch of sky along flight routes for $50 a year with the option to repurchase. Each purchaser receives a certificate of their patch, a unique set of co-ordinates and can view the patch through google maps.

This was the first time the RFDS had undertaken a campaign of this size. It integrates a digital and online component, including information and certificates housed on the microsite; it sends flight alert updates to keep the donor engaged and for social sharing; as well as creating a media and social ‘hook’ because of the unique nature of what was being sold. We utilised a highly relevant ambassador adding to the interest of the campaign.

Results and Evaluation.

Over the campaign’s two month period we achieved:

  • 130 media items, including Australia’s number one breakfast TV show Sunrise, Channel 10, The Australian and Daily Telegraph, with a combined coverage reach of 37+ million.
  • The campaign website achieved 40,000+ page views.
  • 15,000 new Facebook fans.
  • $80,000+ raised for the RFDS (NOTE: CONFIDENTIAL, NOT FOR SHARING).
  • 62% of purchasers in target demographic. 73% of purchasers were under 55. 60% signed up to receive the alerts.
  • Secured a deal with Qantas, Australia’s national carrier, to sell patches of sky as part of their frequent flyer program – this will access 9 million frequent flyers and has the potential to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. Launched February 2014.