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Marketing Brand Strategy Best of 2021

5 of the best public sector campaigns that won in 2021, including the BBC and NHS


By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

December 24, 2021 | 6 min read

As part of our Best of 2021 series, our journalists have been picking out their favorite award-winning work of the year.


BBC ‘The history lesson you never had’ by BBC Creative

Throughout the festive season, we’ll be looking back through the winners from our 2021 global awards program, which includes The Drum Awards for Marketing, The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries, The Drum Awards for B2B and more.

Here, we round-up some of the best campaigns to win in The Drum Awards’ public sector categories, including work from leading brands the BBC and NHS.

BBC ‘The history lesson you never had’ by BBC Creative

Small Axe

The BBC aired Steve McQueen’s highly acclaimed Small Axe series – which delved into stories from London’s West Indian community from the 1960s to the 1980s – in late 2020. At the time, the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum and there were mounting calls for better education on Black British history within schools. In response, the BBC Teach and McQueen recreated the five films into educational animated video content aimed at pupils from the ages of nine to 15, expanding on the stories of those featured. They live on a dedicated site with additional teaching resources designed to bring significant moments from recent black British history to life for students. The work won the best public sector campaign at the The Drum Roses Awards.

The Royal Navy ‘Giving a voice to the Silent Service’ by Great State

The Royal Navy has historically struggled to recruit into its secret operations Submariner Service, with its core target audience of 16-24-year-olds generally falling into two categories – those who knew nothing about the service and those who had misconceptions. Rather that fight that fact, its recruitment campaign played into the mystique and sense of intrigue around life a submariner.

The work featured redactions, blurring effects and glitches, with copy lines that talked straight to the user and that would be especially familiar to gamers and tech lovers. Short form teasers and trailer-style content created a sense of anticipation, while further exploration was rewarded with more information through a bespoke landing page, targeted paid social and longer form organic content. Hidden Easter egg links were placed on other recruitment pages to give the perception of a secretive alternative to those already considering a naval career.

Named best public sector campaign at The Drum Awards for Digital Industries, it resulted in a 698% increase in traffic to the submariner page and an increase of more than 50% in expression of interest submissions and applications.

Department of Health and Social Care ‘NHS Life Saving Reunions’ by LadBible Group

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, this campaign sought to shine a light on NHS heroes and reunite them with patients they had saved.

Winner of best public sector or government campaign at The Drum Awards for Social, it comprised a series of emotional interviews all in an effort to help drive recruitment in the NHS.

United States Postal Service ‘Dear Santa’ by UM Agency

The ‘Operation Santa’ Program of the United States Postal Service has been running for over a century. It matches some of the hundreds of thousands of letters sent to Santa with individuals and organizations to try and fulfill the wishes of those who sent them.

This campaign from UM Studios, which won public sector or government campaign at the The Drum Awards for Content, allowed people to see what goes on behind the scenes for the first time and put a spotlight on the many people involved in this massive undertaking.

For the resulting documentary, director Dana Nachman interviewed children who sent letters and told the heart-warming stories of the postal workers, some of whom experienced the magic of Operation Santa themselves when they were younger.

The Scottish Government ‘Drive Like Gran’s in the Car’ by The Leith Agency

Young male drivers are more likely than anyone else to be involved in road accidents. But the problem was that they were hearing the same old warnings from the same people – parents, teachers and the government. So the Leith Agency tried a different tack – delivering road safety advice through grans.

Its insight suggested that carrying ’precious cargo’ – ie elderly or young relatives – is the only thing that makes young men more careful behind the wheel. Plus, they’ll do anything not to let their grans down.

As a result of the work, 40% of young male drivers took action after seeing the campaign, winning it best public sector campaign at The Drum Roses Awards.

Head to The Drum Awards website to find out more about all of our competitions, including categories, deadlines, judges and how to enter.

Marketing Brand Strategy Best of 2021

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