CAMPAIGNS: DTI spreads the wage message - Public Affairs

After years of campaigning by unions, 1 April saw the introduction of a national minimum wage (NMW) in the UK.

After years of campaigning by unions, 1 April saw the introduction

of a national minimum wage (NMW) in the UK.

It affects around two million workers aged 18 and over, ensuring they

are paid a minimum of pounds 3.60 per hour for adults and pounds 3 for

workers aged between 18 and 21.

The Department of Trade and Industry launched an awareness-raising

campaign, aimed at both employers and employees, especially those in

low-paid groups: women, part-time workers, agency staff, ethnic minority

communities, homeworkers, those seeking jobs, and those about to turn



To raise awareness of the NMW among target audiences, using the media

and a paid-for publicity campaign.

Strategy and Plan

It was vital that the key messages were afforded maximum coverage. These

were the basic facts which needed to be conveyed to both employers and

employees - the rate and start date of the NMW, employee rights and

employer responsibilities.

There was also a dedicated helpline number to promote. The helpline

provides information, including guidance booklets which were available

in a range of languages, as well as in Braille. It was important to let

people know that this source of information existed.

The campaign aimed to publicise the number of people who were set to

benefit, both region-by-region and nationally - two million people

throughout the UK.

In the week before the launch, all the national and regional broadcast

desks as well as national and regional lobby correspondents were briefed

on the key messages. The DTI press office provided factsheets with

regional figures and case studies to help with stories in the regional


On the day of the launch, a photocall was organised at a branch of

McDonald’s, which already pays above the NMW, and was happy to be

associated with a ’better pay equals better service’ message. The

photocall featured trade and industry Secretary of State, Stephen Byers,

and Minister of State Ian McCartney, who also gave interviews for the

lunchtime bulletins.

The PR campaign supported an extensive advertising campaign, on

television, radio and in newspapers on both a regional and national

level. This was developed by Ogilvy and Mather and the COI, working

closely with the DTI in-house team.

Measurement and Evaluation

As to be expected for such an historic event, the launch of the NMW was

widely covered in the media - even though it coincided with Kosovo and

Northern Ireland stories. Research conducted internally has shown that

key messages were strongly apparent in all the coverage.

The DTI helpline number received 75,000 calls between the start of the

campaign and 27 March, when the Inland Revenue took responsibility for

enforcing the NMW. Since then, the IR has received a further 30,000

calls, including complaints of non-payment.

The COI is now carrying out research to determine the awareness of

messages achieved by the campaign.


The campaign seems to have been well-targeted, especially at some

hard-to-reach sections of the community.

While it would have been easy to get coverage simply based on the fact

that it was an historic occasion - unions have been arguing for a

minimum wage for more than 100 years - it still succeeded in getting the

’bread and butter’ messages out about dates and rates.

Client: DTI

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Launch of the national minimum wage

Timescale: March to April 1999

Budget: nearly pounds 5 million

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