MullenLowe ups the tempo in new NHS recruitment spot

Ad focuses on IT and support roles.

MullenLowe London has created a recruitment ad for the NHS that hones in on IT and support staff – roles that are often perceived as less essential than doctors and nurses. It depicts real NHS staff and real moments across hospitals in Southampton, Canterbury and Ashford.

A continuation of the "We are the NHS" campaign that launched last summer to mark the organisation's 70th anniversary, the spot follows an emotional film narrated by Maxine Peak that celebrated the contribution of nurses.

It was created by Hugh Todd and Lovisa Silburn, and directed by Simon Ratigan through HLA. Sixty- and 30-second TV ads will be supported by social and radio activity. The government's media agency is Manning Gottlieb OMD.

‘You can’t film right now, someone has just died’

Simon Ratigan, director

It’s not often you find yourself filming in a life and death environment. When you do, it reminds you of what’s really important.

We’re not in a war zone, but standing outside the Coronary Care Unit at Ashford Hospital in Kent. We’re shooting a recruitment ad for the NHS. The staff inside the unit are saving lives, or, in this particular case, dealing with the fallout of a fatal heart attack. We are kindly asked not to enter.

After almost three days of rapid-fire intrusions into every area of the hospital’s operation, there is nothing we can do, but stand and wait. We’ve been filming simultaneously, in multiple locations and haven’t stopped and this sudden pause seems out of kilter with the fast-in, fast-out process we’ve become used to.

It’s a busy hospital and they don’t have the time, space or the manpower to accommodate film crews. So when we are given access, we have to be quick, discreet and focused on what we need.

However, this unexpected pause isn’t about any of these things. It’s about death and what the staff need now is calm and a few moments to do what’s necessary. We recognize this and remain in the corridor, quietly suppressing the urge to rush off and film something else. We are working to a manic schedule, with limited resources and are acutely aware that valuable shooting time is being lost. Sadly, on the other side of the door something far more valuable has been lost.

However, every shot does count, especially on this project, as finding good material is proving difficult. The ad is to promote IT and support jobs within the NHS. Neither are particularly dynamic roles nor visually interesting. But this "hidden army", as everyone is calling them, plays a pivotal part in the organization and, like doctors and nurses, the NHS are in desperate need of them.

When I started on this project, I thought that those working in IT and support were somehow separate to the rest of the NHS and, in truth, less important than the clinicians. But it’s now clear that what they do is just as crucial and although their jobs are very different to the clinical staff, they share the same purpose. It’s what makes working in IT or support for the NHS so different to working for a corporation – they’re saving lives.

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