Adwatch: NHS nursing campaign is quietly powerful and effective

Neil Goodlad, chief strategy officer of The & Partnership London, reviews NHS England's "We are the NHS" by MullenLowe London.

Adwatch: NHS nursing campaign is quietly powerful and effective

Maybe we could take it for granted that the current NHS campaign would be this month’s most liked. After all, a recent YouGov survey showed it’s the institution we are second-most proud of, behind only our fire brigade.

You might argue the creative treatment is to be expected too: slice-of-life vignettes, manifesto voiceover, heartstrings soundtrack. No risks taken or boundaries broken. Yet that assessment sells this work short. Closer inspection suggests it is quietly powerful and effective, a sound strategy thoughtfully executed.

Ostensibly a recruitment ad for nurses, the ambition here is bigger and broader. It seeks to reach the existing, overextended workforce, acknowledging their importance ("we’re mending lives"); political influencers, to underline the scale of budget challenges ("11 million emergency calls year"); and the nation writ large, to top up reserves of goodwill ("we’re always here, we’re always there").

There were other recruitment strategies available. They could have focused on how the service is advancing. They could have taken a leaf from the Forces’ book and emphasised personal development or skills acquired. They could have reached for testimonials, tearful patients tallying debts of gratitude.

The chosen approach is more widescreen though. It succeeds in making a nurse's role feel ordinary and accessible, yet at the same time extraordinary and profound. We see moments of teamwork and camaraderie, of tension and appreciation.

And with the line "We are the NHS", we understand that "we" here is more than our health professionals, it’s all of us, with the NHS as an expression of our best selves, to be cherished and championed.

This is work with hidden depths and If the NHS shouldn’t be taken for granted, neither should campaigns like this.

Adwatch research is conducted via an internet omnibus survey among 1000 GB adults, aged 16-64, through Research Express, part of Kantar TNS, one of the world’s leading data, insight & consulting agencies.