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3 key lessons the Live Aid concerts can teach you about your marketing content

Sometimes you can feel proud to be a small cog in the big machine that is the financial services industry.

Such a feeling was prompted by the recent “Rock for Ukraine” fundraising event.

It started with the extraordinary actions of Phil Billingham, David Crozier, and others who not only raised money for Ukrainian refugees, but then hired vans and drove across Europe to deliver aid.

It then culminated in a benefit gig held in London on a cold night in February that, as reported in Money Marketing, raised close to £50,000.

The efforts of Phil and David, and the enormous success of the gig itself, set me thinking about other benefit gigs and fundraisers over the years.

Being for the benefit of…

Benefit concerts and entertainment events to raise money for a specific cause aren’t new.

As early as 1749, Handel was putting on regular performances of his Messiah to raise money for an orphans’ charity, and soon the idea took off all over Europe.

In the modern era, as ever when it comes to matters of popular culture, the Beatles were ahead of the curve. George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh held at Madison Square Garden in 1971 is widely regarded to be the first benefit gig we’d recognise today.

Those of us who came of age in the late-70s and early 80s enjoyed the more overtly political form of benefit events, from Rock against Racism through to the plethora of gigs staged around the country to support striking mineworkers.

Then, just four months after the Miner’s Strike ended came the gold standard – the event against which all other subsequent high profile rock star-laden events have been measured ever since – Live Aid.

One day like this

In November 1984, Michael Buerk’s shocking BBC report about the terrible famine in Ethiopia raised awareness of the horrendous humanitarian disaster that was unfolding.

It led directly to the charity single, Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ that was written and produced by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and raised more than £2 million.

Soon after, Geldof was contacted by some of the artists involved, and persuaded that a fund-raising one-off concert would be an idea.

The one-off event then turned into two gigs on the same July day – one in London and one in Philadelphia. That then spawned a series of associated events all over the world.

When the day was over, it was estimated that an audience of nearly 2 billion – then 40% of the world’s population – had watched one of the events. Furthermore, an extraordinary £150 million had been raised for relief charities working in Ethiopia and the surrounding areas.

Since then, many attempts have been made to copy and emulate Live Aid. They’ve enjoyed varying degrees of success and raised awareness of many worthy causes. But none have been as successful or captured the popular imagination in the same way.

So, come back to that steaming hot day in the summer of 1985, to discover three lessons it can teach you about how you can improve your marketing content.

1. Keep it short and simple

It soon became clear, given how many acts were going to perform and the fact that the two concerts were going to run simultaneously for much of the day, that artists overrunning would create a logistical disaster.

For bands and artists, many with egos the size of small planets, being told when to go on and how long to play could have chafed.

But everyone came to realise that success depended on them keeping it short, and to the point.

That important lesson could equally apply to your own marketing content – newsletters, website articles, blog posts and the like.

The key thing to aim for is to get your message across. For Geldof it was an expletive-laden sentence encouraging viewers to send in their money. For you, it should be making sure what you’re trying to get across to your client audience is simple, understandable, and not buried in pages of words and content.

The same goes for webinars and presentations if you do them. Keep the messages engaging and easy to understand and try your best not to overrun!

2. Make sure you have right mix of oldies and new acts

The eventual line-up of bands and artists at both events came in for some criticism.

The limited number of new acts, and focus on established stars wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but Geldof realised that the aim of the event was to maximise viewing figures and income, so rightly focused on established names who would draw the biggest audience possible.

Seen through that prism, getting ultimate dad-rockers, Status Quo, to kick-off the Wembley event was both inspired and obvious.

Likewise in Philadelphia, Tamla Motown legends the Four Tops got everyone up and dancing very early on, and the Beach Boys went down a storm, probably because in the 95 degree weather most of the audience were dressed for the beach anyway.

Similarly, although clearly the content you’ll want your clients to read will be bespoke for your target market, there’s no real harm in repeating a lot of the same messages that have stood you in good stead for many years.

After all, the underlying concepts of financial advice you’re trying to get across tend not to change.

There are, however, many different ways of playing familiar tunes, to make them engaging and informative to a new audience.

3. Get experts in to help you

When it came to organising Live Aid, Geldof was smart enough to know his limits. Producing a one-off single was one thing, but two enormous stadium concerts held thousands of miles apart that would be televised for a worldwide audience was another matter entirely.

So, one of his first calls was to Harvey Goldsmith, who was the most successful events promoter in the UK at the time. Similarly, for the US event, legendary promoter Bill Graham was in charge.

Geldof also made sure that the backstage staff came from the big groups who were used to staging stadium events, such as Pink Floyd and The Who.

You could really benefit from following the same ethos when it comes to your marketing content. Your field of expertise will be financial planning and advising clients about how best to secure their future wealth and security.

So why not get experts to produce your content to ensure it’s fit for purpose and targeted at the audience you want to read it?

Get in touch

At the Yardstick Agency, our team of content specialists can deliver for you. We can produce topical and persuasive content – from the old familiar hits to new output you might not have heard before – all of which will be designed to encourage clients to get in touch.

Contact us at or call 0115 8965 300 to find out how.

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