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Wednesday, 21 October 2020


UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency appoints Blue State as lead global media agency

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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has appointed values-led campaign and creative agency Blue State to help guide its global media.

Through this appointment, Blue State will be responsible for UNHCR’s strategy, consultancy and insight at a global level.

Blue State, a WPP company, will also handle planning, delivery and oversight of digital media across multiple markets, as well as supporting donor-led creative initiatives.

The agency has an initial duration of three years, with an option to extend to five years.

This appointment is the result of recent fundraising success in project collaborations between Blue State and UNHCR. Blue State was appointed as UNHCR’s UK digital acquisition agency in May 2019 and has since improved the organisation’s media performance, donor numbers and overall revenue. Since January 2020, this includes raising US$1 million for the Syrian crisis and COVID-19 support for displaced communities.

This appointment extends Blue State’s remit on a global basis. It is also the first time that media delivery for UNHCR will include not just strategy but also creative, and potentially audience research where appropriate.

Blue State has been tasked with acquiring as many new donors and raising as much income as possible within the budget.

The brief initially covers 12 markets, with potential to expand to 26 markets in the coming years. Blue State will partner with two local market agencies: Ada in Asia and MediaCom in Africa for in-market media buying and localisation. It will also run a global hub for consultancy, insights, campaigns and emergency response with local media buying and planning activity across Europe and the Americas.

The agency will work directly into the UNHCR global team based in Copenhagen and Geneva, as well as with regional leads in Asia and Europe.

This win marks UNHCR Blue State’s first multi-year retained global media account, though it has previously run media campaigns for the UK Government, Movember Foundation, Google, Special Olympics and Vodafone.

The first major media push for Blue State and UNHCR will be helping to raise global funds to support vulnerable communities in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, with campaigns already being scaled in Denmark, India, Hong Kong and Singapore. Activity will then expand to include planned moments such as World Refugee Day and winter campaigns.

Polly Gilchrist, global marketing manager for UNHCR, said:

“We are facing a number of challenges at UNHCR, as the global situation around refugees becomes more complex. We are in the middle of a long-term crisis, particularly in Syria, Yemen and the Middle East, which shows no signs of resolution, and now COVID-19 brings additional challenges. We are serving more forcibly displaced people than ever.”

“We need to find a way to both keep the narrative current and to stress the continuing urgency of the immediate situations while working to encourage acceptance of refugees globally.

“It was vital for us to find an agency partner that understood the not for profit sector and the unique set of challenges that we face. Blue State’s breadth of experiences in this area, its global reach, and the work it has been doing for us creatively in the UK in recent months reassured us that there’s no better agency for the job.”

Hannah Johnson, managing director at Blue State, added:

“With UNHCR, we want to show how media can change. In everything Blue State does, we’re conscientious, rigorous and transparent – and media is no different.

“UNHCR has a big ambition to raise $1bn – our goal will be to design a media and insights model to empower that. In non-profits, every penny counts as brand awareness, and engagement needs to link to conversion and return – something that shouldn’t just stop at that industry. We’ve built our media offering around providing something different and about getting audiences to act. Awareness is just the first step. It’s about creating retention, loyalty and real change in society

“In 2020 society is seeking change. Brand consumers and charity donors now expect not just the best possible experience but that brands and nonprofits take and offer a point of view on how their organisation is positively contributing to society. With UNHCR, we want to make a difference at all levels – from empowering its work with refugees, to improving the way it interacts with consumers and the media landscape.”

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