Union keeps the faith for TV adverts launch

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The Independent Online

Labour Editor

Britain's first television advertising campaign on behalf of a union will contain a distinctly "old Labour" message, it was revealed yesterday.

The 1.3-million-strong public service union Unison, which is expected to become the Labour Party's biggest affiliate next year, has chosen the theme of collective strength in an advertisement due to be transmitted for the first time on Friday.

Instead of adopting the "modernist" approach of marketing its legal and contractual advice services, Unison has gone for a humorous yet unmistakable message that collectivism is all-important.

The cartoon depicts a large and particularly stupid bear, representing management, who is politely asked to move out of the way by a diligent worker ant. A second ant joins his colleague to ask the bear to move, but to no avail. Keen to complete their task, the two ants leave to return with an army of colleagues who bellow "get out of the way" at the ursine obstacle, who leaps for cover.

Alan Jinkinson, general secretary of Unison, said yesterday he was "particularly pleased" with the traditional flavour of the ad because people were in need of protection at work.

"The message is simple - it's the basis of trade unionism - strength in numbers and the collective good.

"All the membership surveys we have conducted indicate that an overwhelming number of people, both men and women, join unions for traditional reasons. We have tried to put it over in a humorous and gentle way."

The pounds 1.2m recruitment campaign, which will begin on Friday during an episode of Brookside on Channel 4, could mark the start of an entirely new approach to union self- promotion. The advertisements will be broadcast at peak times on Channel 4 in two tranches with the first part continuing through Christmas into January. A second phase is planned for April, possibly supplemented by cinema advertising.

Mr Jinkinson said the union was particularly keen to target young people - only 9 per cent of Unison members were under 24 - and the timing of the advertisements had been chosen with that in mind. They are scheduled to be seen in commercial breaks during films, football and the American series Frasier.

Unison suffers from a particularly high turnover of around 200,000 people a year as members leave through job loss, career change and retirement.

The union needed to recruit both new workers and existing employees, and was also keen to raise public awareness of the union, Mr Jinkinson said.