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The Challenge

In the absence of an emergency or news coverage, make a strong case for donating to the United Kingdom for UNHCR (UK for UNHCR).

The Insight

With UK media often perpetuating misinformation about refugees, there was an opportunity to ensure the public were equipped with the facts.

The Solution

We launched The Cold Truth, an integrated and hard-hitting campaign depicting the winter conditions facing refugees – and emphasizing how donors can help.

Drive Revenue in Non-Emergency Moments

A time for cold truths

For the past four years we have partnered with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, starting in the UK and then extending our remit across 30+ countries, to help shift perceptions around refugees and raise income and awareness.

For the first time, United Kingdom for UNHCR (UK for UNHCR) wanted to bring together communications, PR and fundraising, united under one integrated appeal to understand if this would increase momentum. After a competitive process, Blue State was appointed the lead creative agency tasked with designing a creative approach that could span all channels working closely with the UK for UNHCR team and wider agencies Bluefrog (DM), SHOOK (PR). 

Continued support in 2022 was more important than ever,  starting with raising funds for refugees and people forced to flee the war in the Ukraine followed by rapid response activity to support those impacted by the Afghanistan earthquake and flooding in Pakistan.

Heading into our fourth winter appeal for UK for UNHCR, it was crucial to consider how we could build momentum and, without an emergency taking over headlines to build empathy with refugees how could we take on that role in December, a time where half the nation (48%) admits they are more likely to give to charity than the rest of the year.

Young boy shovels snow next to their shelter to prevent water from leaking into it

Across mainstream UK media, the topic of refugees had been front and centre for most of 2022. The crisis in Ukraine was one of many factors that raised difficult (but important) questions around how we view refugees, how much we know about the issues they face and who we as society deem to be worthy of safety.

It was in this conversation that UK for UNHCR had a vital part to play.

When it comes to refugees, misinformation and negativity often dominate the narrative and eclipse any evidence of real support for refugees that exists across the country such as UK residents opening their doors to help (over 100,000 Ukrainian guests were in safe housing as a result of the Homes for Ukraine scheme). 

So to counter this often misconstrued negativity, our campaign focused on truth.

The cold truth.

The truth of the public attitudes and behaviours. The truth of the conditions facing refugees and displaced families in winter. The truth of how donors could help.

Rob Trono, Group Creative Director, Blue State

And in doing so we could uncover new narratives, highlight untold truths, and harness the untapped solidarity of new and existing supporters in a nine week campaign of three phases: awareness, engagement and conversion across PR, digital, email, press and direct mail. 

A toolkit helped to drive creativity and consistency across channels with a style guide, sample copy and call to actions to reinforce the ambition of the idea and we partnered with IPSOS to uncover the most compelling statistics to include in campaign copy.

UNHCR ambassadors helped provide key campaign moments including a Spotify audio ad voiced by Stanley Tucci and a direct response video from Cate Blanchett the latter of which helped activity scale and accounted for 50% of all income from paid social.

For the engagement phase, there was the chance to take part in the 2 truths and a lie quiz which influencers also completed to help spread the word.


Almost £1m was raised across digital channels alone, a Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS) of 3.15 with over 9,000 donations coming from new supporters. We could also see that the integration between PR, Comms & Fundraising helped create an uplift in the campaign in both brand consideration and intent to donate. 

The campaign helped round off a strong year for our partnership with the organisation recruiting 35,000 donations and raising over £5.3m across online and DM with an average ROAS of 4.4.


  • 35,000 donations
  • £5mill+ raised
  • 4 return on average spend (ROAS)
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