Working together since:


UNISON is the UK’s largest public sector trade union. We first began working with UNISON in 2013, when they came to us looking for ways to cost-effectively recruit new members through direct response advertising. The success of our initial partnership with UNISON led to a continued collaboration of sustainable growth spanning a decade and extending beyond solely recruitment but also into brand-focused campaigns. From celebrating public sector champions (2016/17) and the NHS’ 70th birthday (2018), to calling on the government to get ‘Back to Normal’ with sustained investment into public services (2020), ending the public sector pay freeze (2021) and rallying against the cost-of-living crisis (2022) – we have worked with UNISON on some exceptional campaigns. We are now responsible for both brand and response elements of UNISON’s growth marketing strategy.


The recruitment and brand awareness elements to UNISON’s strategy have different objectives. The recruitment aim focuses exclusively on driving new members into the organisation at cost-efficient levels. Comparatively, the branding aim is to use effective marketing to promote UNISON’s stance to a public audience on the subject matter of each campaign, often to evoke the action of signing a petition which is presented to government.

Our recruitment strategy was where we started and it has continued to evolve over the past 10 years. To ensure we made the right media decisions for UNISON, we developed a business model to assess the projected return from test activity in recruitment. Our business model initially set out some key changes to website and call centre recruitment processes. We further developed a test and roll-out strategy in appropriate media to minimise initial outlay and risk. A broad range of channels have been used in recruitment from DRTV and national/trade press to digital display, paid search and paid social. For each channel, we have always adopted a rigorous approach which ensures continuous analysis, reporting and optimisation to maximise ongoing ROI.

In 2019, we felt that our reporting through short-term attribution models such as TV attribution, was accelerating but potentially masking our true results. We therefore decided to undertake an econometrics project which sought to identify all influences impacting new members including both marketing-related and external factors, to ensure our results were as solid as they appeared. The project delivered invaluable insights both with regards to our media activity but also in terms of wider macro level factors that impact membership levels. The econometrics budget optimiser tool also helped plan phasing of budgets across the year more effectively.

Econometrics showed us that economic factors in recent years plus strike activity across late 2022 and 2023 have impacted consumer confidence. This has meant that recruitment activity is still highly relevant for UNISON’s media strategy, and we continue to deliver at highly efficient levels.

Brand awareness
Our work outside of recruitment began in 2016. UNISON wanted to raise awareness of its work to protect against the cuts to public spending, which in-turn led to a ‘Public Sector Champions’ campaign. Focusing on brand indicated that a greater level of investment went into ATL media, which may have previously been overshadowed from recruitment activity owing to CPA inefficiencies as well as spends across the digital ecosystem. For this very first brand campaign, we utilised brand tracking via a media partner which showed that the campaign had moved the needle with regards to the perception of UNISON as a brand. Delivering positive, nationwide impact and growth gave UNISON the confidence to work with us on its future brand campaigns and we have generally run a brand campaign every year since.


Accelerating Growth

UNISON’s new member direct response recruitment targets were exceeded by 100% in our first year of delivery which was a remarkable achievement. Annual investment hit £2m by 2019 and generated a positive ROI within seven months. We can measure that over 250,000 incremental new members have been recruited through our recruitment activity since launch.

Our branding results are measured on a campaign basis. The measurement differs from recruitment and is focused on impact as opposed to direct response. With regards to the very first brand campaign, the new “top statement” associated with UNISON was that they were “working in the interests of the public” having previously been considered “helpful”. This shift in attitude and awareness towards what the organisation stood for gave increased confidence to UNISON about the value of investing in brand campaigns, alongside always hitting the 100k signatures required to submit to government to be considered for debate. We have received similar and positive results across other campaigns we have ran.