Six public sector campaigns we liked in 2021

In a year in which fighting COVID-19 was the number-one priority, it’s easy to forget that many other issues – from knife crime to espionage – were also highlighted.

Clockwise, from top left: campaign images from Stoptober, Every Mind Matters, Look Into My Eyes, and Think Before You Link

Here are six public sector campaigns that caught PRWeek’s eye:


Public Health England’s last hurrah, on the eve of ceasing to exist in October, was to celebrate the success of its Stoptober campaign – which marked its 10th anniversary this year – with an infographic animation devised by Freuds.

Stoptober launched in 2012 and has resulted in more than two million smokers in England kicking the habit. This key message in the animation is accompanied by a warning that there remains much to do, with smoking still killing 75,000 people in England every year.

The latest iteration of the campaign is focused on the benefits of stopping smoking, such as being able to breathe more easily and saving money.

Hard calls save lives

Grieving mothers whose sons had lost their lives were at the heart of an emotive campaign by the Metropolitan Police and Crimestoppers urging people to come forward with information about knife crime.

In a series of short films, the women relive the aftermath of the murders of their children – and remember the first calls they made after learning the news.

The campaign’s key message was that, while picking up the phone to Crimestoppers may be difficult, it could prevent someone else from having to make a far harder call after the death of a loved one.

The campaign used a mix of traditional and social media channels, along with internal comms, collaboration with partner organisations such as charities and local authorities, and influencers.

Look into my eyes

Visually arresting images of doctors, nurses and seriously ill coronavirus patients were used in an emotional appeal for people to stay at home. A film created for the Government by Freuds features close-up views of hospital staff and sick patients staring into the camera and pleading for people to follow the Government’s guidance.

The campaign reveals the emotional and physical toll that COVID-19 is taking on medical teams and the people they care for, to stress the importance of staying at home to help stop the spread of the virus.

Freuds, MullenLowe, OmniGOV, MMC and 23red worked on the campaign, which encompassed PR, TV, radio, print, digital and social advertising.

Think before you link

Concerns over attempts by foreign spies to recruit Britons online prompted a campaign by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure – a branch of MI5 – to warn of the danger. The campaign, which was primarily aimed at civil servants and other officials, urged people to report suspicious profiles and remove them from their networks.

A campaign film depicts an official being approached online to be a keynote speaker at a “prestigious conference” where they will be paid an “attractive fee” and have all expenses paid.

Shadowy figures are shown gripping onto the official and their colleagues. And the voiceover warns: “Connecting with profiles you don't know can have unforeseen and damaging consequences.”

COVID-19 vaccination

Why settle for one British star when you can get two to rally to your cause? NHS England managed to get Sir Elton John and Sir Michael Caine to appear in a short, tongue-in-cheek film encouraging people to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

The film takes the style of an audition video, with John attempting to land a role fronting the campaign. After failing to impress, he attempts an impersonation of Caine. The ad ends with Caine, who tells viewers that the vaccine “didn’t hurt” – adding his famous catchphrase: “Not many people know that.”

Lord Ara Darzi commissioned the film, which was shot at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The NHS made it in-house and launched it on social media and its own website.

Every Mind Matters

The latest iteration of the long-running Every Mind Matters campaign
, devised by Public Health England, was launched by the successor body to PHE – the new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities – in October.

The campaign is designed to empower adults to improve their mental wellbeing ahead of the winter months. It is backed by celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain sharing their experiences of mental wellbeing in the hope of encouraging the public to look after their own. People are encouraged to get a free NHS-approved Mind Plan from the Every Mind Matters website.

The multimedia campaign is a cross-agency collaboration between M&C Saatchi, Wavemaker, OmniGOV, Freuds and 23red.

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