Radical thinking for University College London 2012


To inspire UCL graduates to make a first gift and also improve second gift rates.


In 1832, philosopher and lawyer Jeremy Bentham died. In keeping with his belief that the dead should be of use to the living, he arranged for his body to be preserved as an ‘auto-icon’. Today, Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon sits in the South Cloisters of UCL – curious students regularly visit.

Jeremy Bentham inspired a tradition of ‘Radical Thinking’ at UCL, which is also applied to fundraising. When UCL approached us and suggested they might like to bring Jeremy ‘back to life’ for the purposes of fundraising, we were only too happy to oblige. And so the year’s strangest campaign was born…


You might call it a ransom in reverse. In 1975, students from a rival institution stole Jeremy Bentham’s wax head and demanded a fee for its return. We thought it was probably the most fun (and fresh air) Jeremy had had in years, or at least since his death. So we thought Jeremy might play a prank of his own on UCL graduates.

On his behalf, we sent a paper lantern of Jeremy’s head to a selection of donors and potential donors. Jeremy kindly penned a letter explaining his concerns regarding recent changes to the funding of higher education, which he believed jeopardised UCL’s traditions. He asked donors to give a gift to support UCL, and of course they could keep his head.

Emails were sent alongside the DM pack and it proved a challenge to keep up with all the activity on Facebook and Twitter.


Donors and potential donors were sent a paper lantern of Jeremy Bentham’s head. It sounds strange. It was strange.


Jeremy found his voice again to write to alumni asking them to support UCL.


Jeremy asked if alumni would mind showing him where his head ended up (he’s pretty attached to his head, after all).


Jeremy’s head went to Nevada.


Jeremy even took a trip up Everest.


He also made himself at home in more domestic settings.


Jeremy even ended up on E-Bay

The reminder introduced alumni to Jeremy Bentham’s cat: Reverend Doctor John Langborn.


Client: University College London