We are the NHS

IPA Effectiveness Awards Case Study 2020

In 2018, when this paper begins, NHS England faced negative publicity, and a staffing crisis, with one in 10 nurses leaving every year and 34,000 unfilled vacancies. Communications needed to increase recruitment, encourage ex-nurses to return, and improve staff retention and career perceptions of the NHS. Over two years, emotive ‘We are the NHS’ and ‘We are Nurses’ creative ran on TV, radio, social and outdoor among other channels. CRM recruited A-level teenagers and potential career switchers. Research showed NHS staff satisfaction rose and applications rose after media activity. It is estimated communications drove 10,000-14,000 extra applicants and reduced cost per applicant.

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Working with MullenLowe on the We Are The NHS campaign has changed the way I think about advertising and specifically recruitment advertising. Year 1 of the campaign was delivered at breakneck speed with the imperative to coincide with the NHS’s 70th anniversary on 5th July 2018. This necessitated extremely speedy audience selection, insight generation and media planning. We didn’t get it all right, but what we did do was deliver a compelling advertising campaign that resonated with the British public and perhaps more importantly with current nurses. We knew when we received initial feedback that we had something special. This was confirmed by being voted the nation’s favourite campaign of 2018. Year 2 was spent converting our learnings into a truly effective campaign – and this is what I am most proud of and thankful to MullenLowe for achieving. Combining Year 1 insights with world-class research to form customer journeys that will shape our advertising for years to come. We tightened our strategies, and crucially created an approach that was relentlessly audience-focused, evidence-based, and single-mindedly concentrated on delivering what we required – applications to Nursing degree courses. We didn’t lose sight of the emotional engagement we’d managed to obtain, highlighting how wonderful a career in nursing can be, and our creative is a testament to that. With less budget, we targeted audiences with precise media and a keen eye on conversion. We then used that conversion to create a meaningful relationship with our audience, helping them over the line into a wonderful career. I can simply say that this is the campaign I am most proud of from my 30 years in public communication and working with the world class professionals throughout MullenLowe has been the highlight of my career.

Ian Hampton, Lead Campaigns Manager

Winners 2020

Bronze Winner


We are the NHS


NHS England




MullenLowe London
MullenLowe Open
Mediahub UK

Principal Authors

  • James MacAskill - MullenLowe
  • Jane Dorsett - MullenLowe Group
  • Fran Griffin - MullenLowe Open
  • Sabina Usher - Mediahub UK

Contributing Authors

  • Jo Arden - MullenLowe

Credited Companies

  • -

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