5 of the most impactful health campaigns

By Tom Wright, Digital Marketing Manager

Recent years have seen a rise in innovative cross-channel health campaigns. Whether delivered through TV ads, influencer partnerships on Insta, or city centre billboards, there’s a multitude of health campaigns vying for our attention.

As well as charities and health organisations, these campaigns are often led by brands or corporations such as the BBC, seeking to leverage the power of their brand for social good.

They tackle a wide range of issues, using tactics from the behaviour change playbook to help raise awareness, change unhealthy behaviours, and empower people to make healthier life choices. In this article, we explore five of the most notable and impactful recent health campaigns that deserve to be celebrated!

1.   #Movember – Movember Foundation

One of the most instantly recognisable health campaigns is #Movember. Run by the Movember Foundation, it aims to shine a light on men’s health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer, as well as mental health. And it’s entered the public consciousness by encouraging men to grow a fundraising moustache during November. As well as a catchy name, the campaign is a success because it gives men in workplaces and friendship groups a fun collective challenge. The experience of growing facial hair drives its popularity on social – as men share their visual progress using the #Movember hashtag, it sparks conversation about the campaign’s core issues.

2.   Ice Bucket Challenge – ALS Association

Based on the buzz it generated, the ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge is surely one of the most successful health campaign of all time. There was a time in summer 2014 when you couldn’t avoid celebs and friends alike pouring buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness for ALS, a rare neurological disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The viral success of the campaign raised more than $100m in a 30-day period for the ALS Foundation, funding many research projects. It even led to a breakthrough in 2016 when a new gene associated with the disease was identified, hopefully paving the way for potential new treatments.

3. Know your Lemons – Know Your Lemons Foundation

In terms of ingenuity, creativity and impact, Know Your Lemons is one of the most impactful campaigns in women’s health. Its genius lies in the simplicity the campaign’s hero asset –12 lemons in an egg carton depicting the most common visual symptoms of breast cancer, created by designer, entrepreneur and KYL founder Dr Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont. Her design is so stark and powerful it stops newsfeed scrollers in their tracks . Empowering women and men to spot the symptoms of breast cancer early, it has potentially saved millions of lives across the world.


4. This Girl Can – Sport England

First launched in 2015, This Girl Can from Sport England was created to tackle the great gender disparity in activity levels – data showing that 1.75 million fewer women were physically active compared to men. In an effort to raise activity levels, it aims to challenge the glamorised and unrealistic portrayal of women’s fitness “by celebrating a realistic vision of women and exercise in England… using images that show what activity really looks like in all its sweaty, jiggly glory “. It’s been refreshed and relaunched several times since 2015 with each iteration telling the real stories of women who participate in sports and fitness. And it has true impact:  in just one year, This Girl Can inspired 2.8 million women aged 14-40 to increase their physical activity levels.

Watch This Girl Can’s launch ad:

5. Couch to 5K – BBC and Public Health England

Couch to 5K is one of the most popular exercise plans in the world and it’s been encouraging non-runners to get off the get couch and out running since 1996. First created by US designer and running convert Josh Clark, it was adapted for a UK audience in 2016 by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (formerly Public Health England) in partnership with the BBC. With an emphasis on gradual and manageable improvement, it helps novice runners to build up their fitness with three runs a week over nine weeks. BBC involvement gives it star quality, enabling app users to choose from its presenters, as well as Olympic gold medallists, to guide and motivate their training programme. In 2022, more than 6 million runs were recorded on the Couch to 5K app, while the app itself has been downloaded more than 6.5 million times since 2016.

These five show how digital innovation has transformed health campaigning and created real impact by raising awareness, changing behaviour and raising the funds to power groundbreaking research. They demonstrate how clever ideas and sharp marketing and advertising can help to reach, influence, and inspire people to live healthier, happier and hopefully longer lives.

Tom is the Digital Marketing Manager at Thrive. He is passionate about all things digital, and specialises in content strategy and creation.

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