Sorrell and Freud help refugees

UN Refugee Agency wins millions of pounds' worth of free support from major consultancies.

Two of the biggest names in marketing and PR have agreed to provide free comms support worth millions of pounds to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell and Freud Communications chairman Matthew Freud have been helping the UNHCR ahead of World Refugee Day this Friday, PRWeek can reveal.

The UNHCR protects and supports refugees and assists in their return or resettlement. The World Refugee Day plans are part of a larger drive by the UNHCR to re-establish itself in a crowded market and improve awareness of the brand.

Sorrell has pledged £5.1m worth of communications support to the body over the next three years.

The UNHCR is now receiving help from WPP-owned agencies Burson-Marsteller, Landor Associates, VML and Young&Rubicam.

Over the next three years the agencies will be advising on branding, positioning and communications strategy.

Although WPP agencies have previously provided pro bono support, this is the first time a global deal has been struck. The WPP-owned agencies are leading global media relations for Friday's international events.

Freud Communications is also providing pro bono support by working on a film project for the organisation. The agency is helping to produce a film with high-level celebrity involvement. Matthew Freud secured the right to use the Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter from the band's front man Mick Jagger after permission had previously been refused to the charity.

The film will be set to a version of the song re-recorded by Alicia Keyes and is expected to be launched in September.

Both deals were struck at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. Sorrell met the UN high commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres, while Freud met the organisation's head of PR Claudia Gonzalez-Gisiger.

Recent UNHCR research found that it had only 12 per cent public awareness in the US, compared with 75 per cent for Unicef.

The UNHCR launched its annual statistics on displaced people in London this week.

It set up a Darfurian camp in Trafalgar Square and launched a campaign to bring its logo to life.


- Fiona Callister, Head of media, Cafod

'The plight of refugees and displaced people remains largely hidden, so bringing their stories to a wider public is good news. What is also largely unrecognised is the generosity of many of the world's poorest people in taking refugees and displaced people into their own homes.'

- Glen Tarman, Advocacy manager, Bond; co-founder, Make Poverty History

'Global issues such as poverty, climate chaos and human rights' abuses will only be solved if civil society organisations are supported by communications industry leaders. Make Poverty History was one example of how these partnerships can create momentum for change.'

11.4m people around the world are refugees
2.5m more people came under the UNHCR's care last year
85% of UNHCR staff are based on the ground
£5.1m - value of support pledged by WPP
4 - number of WPP agencies working on UNHCR brief

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