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
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
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.
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: Launch of the national minimum wage
Timescale: March to April 1999
Budget: nearly pounds 5 million