Using empty toy boxes to highlight the struggle many families living below the poverty line face.

2020. The most difficult year for charities. With traditional donation sources obliterated by the lockdown, it was vital that SVP connect the donor and the recipient in a motivating way for its annual Christmas appeal. 

So in December, we opened ‘The Empty Toy Shop.’ A pop-up shop filled with thousands of toy boxes. Each one of them empty, to represent a child who would be left empty-handed on Christmas morning.

Strategically located on Henry Street, one of Dublin’s busiest shopping streets, our goal was to engage Christmas shoppers at the moment they were buying presents for their loved ones. For every box bought in the shop, a donation would directly go towards a toy for a child in need.

Our empty boxes, which another agency client Smurfit Kappa volunteered to produce, were also placed in the windows of SVP charity shops across the country, with messaging reminding customers that every donation was a direct intervention.

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Although the St Vincent de Paul (SVP) is the largest charity in Ireland, they get only 1% of their funding from the government. Despite this, 16% of the population are still in constant poverty in Ireland today and calls to SVP for assistance have doubled since 2008.

In 2015, when we began working with SVP, charities were facing additional challenges, not least a growing distrust driven by a number of scandals in the sector. A survey that year found that 57% of people “did not trust that all the money goes to the cause”. Yet SVP still had to put food on the table in 150,000 Irish houses.

The solution

Our strategy was to reconnect the donor by showing every donation was an intervention.


The campaign changed the fortunes of SVP, arresting a decline of -3% in donations to deliver an increase of +28% in four years, winning two Silvers for Long Term Effectiveness at ADFX in 2018. And due to continued success, winning three silvers in the international Effie 2021 by achieving a +175% in donations during the pandemic and securing our future donor base with +1795% (yes, that figure is correct) growth in donations from 18-24’s.

The Mission

Reverse the drop in donations and trust and build a sustained new younger donor base for SVP.

The Solution

Show that it takes one small thing to tip a person into or out of poverty.

The impact

Reversed the fortunes of SVP to deliver an increase in donations of +28% in four years.