This is not a van: Direct Line turns a van into an office to spotlight tool theft

  • April 19, 2023

Direct Line for Business and Saatchi & Saatchi have today launched This is not a van, an integrated campaign that spotlights the catastrophic impact tool theft has on tradespeople across the UK.

Running across a new microsite, Direct Line’s digital channels and through a PR campaign, a film featuring behind-the-scenes content of a van being transformed into an office has been developed by the creative team, reinforcing the message that a tradespersons van is not just their van, it’s also their office. To underpin the importance of the campaign, new research has been commissioned, revealing that over a third (35 per cent) 1 of tradespeople are aware of attempts to break into their van in the last 12 months. A further 22 per cent have actually had tools stolen from their van over the same period.

The film opens by introducing Joe, a plumber from Slough who is all too familiar with the realities and impact of tool theft. Whilst chatting to camera about the prevalence of the problem, Joe is seen in his office where he sits at his desk, takes a call and makes a quick cup of coffee. The camera then pans wider, to reveal that Joe is not in an office at all – instead, he’s transformed the back of his van to look like one by fitting it with office tropes such as a watercooler, shelves of paperwork and even a fully functioning desktop computer and phone system. He concludes by jumping off the back of his van and asks, “Is transforming my van into an office the solution? Clearly not, but it got your attention.” 

The campaign aims to highlight the legal difference between stealing tools, equipment, and materials from a van – classed as theft – and stealing from an office, which is classed as non-domestic burglary, a crime that receives on average twice2 the custodial sentence as theft from a vehicle. The majority (87 per cent) of tradespeople say that they believe the penalties for tool thieves are not strong enough. Wider consumer support is also significant, with 91 per cent of the public believing that the consequences of this crime should be significant to deter would be tool thieves.

Turning Joe’s van into an office was an exercise in the ridiculous but it had an important message at its core – for tradespeople, vans really are like offices, but they’re not legally protected in the same way. We hope that our unlikely transformation helps to highlight the extent of this issue.
Franki Goodwin
CCO, Saatchi & Saatchi UK
Theft from vans is a major problem for tradespeople. From our interviews with reformed thieves, this crime is seen as low risk with a high reward, tradespeople carry high value items in their vans and the punishment if thieves get caught is less severe compared to, for example, theft from an office. When speaking with our customers, we know a van is a tradesperson’s place of work. It’s where they take their calls, it’s where they eat their lunch, it’s where they do their paperwork. We’re working hard to raise awareness of this issue, not just on behalf of our customers, but for every tradesperson across the UK that has and could fall victim to theft.
Oliver Lester
Senior Marketer, Direct Line

More detail can be found at Direct Line’s new dedicated microsite,

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