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United Kingdom for UNHCR

The Challenge

Keep refugees top of mind among prospective donors in a crowded winter giving season.

The Insight

There are over 35m individuals who are defined as a refugee and audiences often only see them through a skewed media or even AI lens.

The Solution

Show the human side of displaced individuals and invite audiences to change the picture by teaching AI and removing existing bias.

UK for UNHCR supports the UN Refugee Agency’s global humanitarian work by fundraising in the United Kingdom. For the last five years we’ve been proud to partner with them as their lead media agency helping transform their digital fundraising income from £500k to £5m.

As their annual winter campaign approached it was crucial to consider how the organization could stand out in a crowded market with a position unique to their cause and the refugees they seek to help.

Who is a refugee?

The campaign we devised intended to take prospective and existing supporters on a journey from awareness to conversion starting with the provocative question: who is a refugee?

In the face of growing negative media coverage around displaced communities we wanted to highlight the human side and commonalities between people across the UK and refugees, be it a caring mum desperate to keep her family warm or a loving team who provide a support network for their young family. This allowed us to share more of the personal stories of these individuals that are often overlooked, thus encouraging our audiences to search beyond the headlines this winter and uncover the real stories of refugees and displaced people.

Change the picture 

To further drive engagement between audiences and the campaign, our engagement angle focused on teaching AI – challenging stereotypes and changing the picture of how refugees can be portrayed by showing the contrast between AI-generated images and stories of hope, love and determination.

AI is here to stay. But damaging refugee stereotypes doesn’t have to be. 

We invited audiences to help change the picture of refugees and how they are represented by submitting experiences, stories and images that better reflect the reality  into our own AI model.

From here we invited audiences to donate to help provide access to emergency essentials like food, fuel, blankets and water. Supporters were asked to further delve into individual stories of refugees across Afghanistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria and Ukraine and learn about how loving parents and their children were seeking to survive during winter.

We crafted scripts to further drive the spotlight around activity shaping content from influencers passionate about the cause including Ben Stiller, David Morrissey, Tanya Burr, Stanley Tucci and Emi Mahmoud.

Paid activity ran from November to January appearing across CTV, Digital Out Of Home (DOOH), Display, Search, Social (Meta, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube) and Audio (Spotify). 

One of the primary objectives of the awareness and engagement phases was to broaden the audience reach of UNHCR with DOOH banners appearing across selected underground stations and street hubs across London and Birmingham which drove a 300% uplift in brand search income during live activity. 

This year was the first year for us to bring in Connected TV (CTV) as a channel to build reach and we saw it help uplift display retargeting response rates.

We were able to successfully build donation volume during the Engagement and Direct Response phases of the campaign with a peak during the week before Christmas. The campaign achieved a Return On Advertising Spend of 1.8 with audiences giving on average a one off donation of £87.


  • £850k raised
  • 7,494 donations from supporters
  • 1.8 Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS)
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