Campaign overview

UNILAD, the most engaged publisher in the world, wanted to use its huge reach among young people aged 18-34 to raise awareness of this little-discussed issue. By partnering with pressure group FreedomToDonate, creative agency, ELVIS, and Global Communications Consultancy, Hotwire, UNILAD launched the #BloodwithoutBias campaign and opened The Illegal Blood Bank – the world’s first blood donation clinic for gay and bisexual men.

The campaign’s central goal was to raise awareness, put pressure on the government to change their ‘out-dated’ legislation, and demonstrate how alternative methods can help identify new, safe donors to meet the NHS’ 135,000 yearly new donor target.

‘Since working with UNILAD on this campaign, we were able to help show that individual assessments could work, that millions of lives could be saved, and we could change perceptions of gay and bisexual men who want to safely donate blood’ said Ethan Spibey, FreedomToDonate.

• Drive a greater understanding, especially outside of the LGBTQ+ community, of the current blood donation policy affecting MSM men
• Drive a minimum of 2,000 MSM men to donate a virtual pint via the #Bloodwithoutbias website
• Secure sign ups from at least 150 MSM men to physically donate blood at The Illegal Blood Bank
• Demonstrate the potential level of safe blood going to waste

• Drive in-depth earned media coverage across broadcast and national press
• Educate UNILAD and wider consumer audiences on the discrimination and out-dated legislation and how the policy change can save lives
• Create an integrated campaign consisting of earned media and a social awareness strategy on owned channels to drive blood donations and sign ups
• Use case studies to celebrate real people behind the story to inspire people to donate
• Take the story to the people and organisations that will have impact

What we did

To maximise the #Bloodwithoutbias campaign’s awareness and give the issue a personal voice, UNILAD and FreedomToDonate launched The Illegal Blood Bank – the world’s first blood donation clinic for gay and bi-sexual men.

The blood bank gave MSM men the opportunity to donate their blood, some for the first time in their lives. The blood bank used FreedomToDonate’s proposed new ‘individualised risk assessment’ questionnaire that screened donors based on their individual sexual behaviour and successfully identified eligible donors, irrespective of their sexuality.

It was fundamental to ensure that the campaign resulted in nationwide support for updating the current policy in place for MSM men. Our narrative, that a pool of potentially perfectly healthy blood is going to waste, formed the crux of the media story and promoted the human empathy side to the issue and helped us to obtain the detail to ensure media verticals had a well-crafted story suitable for their audience.

We targeted broadcast, national, lifestyle, LGBTQ+ and trade press to widen our reach and get the campaign seen by all. To ensure we drove in-depth coverage enriched with our key messages around the #Bloodwithoutbias campaign, we hosted pre-briefing sessions with press to discuss the topic at hand and answer questions in real time. We also gave press the opportunity to attend The Illegal Blood Bank and see the donations happening in real time and speak face to face with our donors to learn why this was an important act of defiance for them.

Securing case studies of MSM men to discuss the reason behind them wanting to donate blood, allowed us to uncover reasons and personal anecdotes, such as not being able to donate blood to family members in need, that you can only get from those behind the story.
We bolstered this by involving Keegan Hirst, as campaign ambassador. Keegan was the first British professional rugby league player to come out as gay back in 2015, which gave him a direct, personal reason to associate himself with the campaign and he really resonated with the UNILAD audience. He became the face of the campaign across social assets and media coverage.

In the one day the Illegal Blood Bank was open, UNILAD collected enough blood to save 78 lives. 100% of the blood donated, was tested to the same standards as blood donated via the NHS and was deemed perfectly safe to use. Before the blood was disposed of, we knew we had to get it in front of the eyes of the public. Working with creative agency ELVIS, Ad shells displaying the real blood bags, to pop up in high footfall locations including outside Parliament, NHS Hospitals, Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus. They helped to open people’s eyes to the potential pool of blood donors available that could contribute to the NHS’s target and help save lives.


As a result, 100% of the blood taken at the Illegal Blood Bank, was tested to the same standards as blood donated via the NHS and was deemed perfectly safe to use. BBC News London, ITV News London and HuffPost attended the Illegal blood Bank and broadcasted in depth segments across the weekend. Jeremey Vine interviewed FreedomToDonate to discuss the results of the Illegal Blood Bank, MailOnline focused on the governments out-dated policy and spoke with our case study to discuss the emotive side behind not being able to donate blood and help others.

57 pieces of on-message press coverage was secured across all vertical targets, 3,500 MSM men pledged to donate a virtual pint via the #Bloodwithoutbias website and 250 MSM men signed up to attend the Illegal Blood Bank and donate blood. The NHS also issued an official statement during the #Bloodwithoutbias campaign, stating it was testing Individualised risk assessments; which was a great step towards changing the current policy.

This campaign has also swept up numerous industry awards to date – including:

D&AD Awards
• Graphite Pencil in the ‘Impact’ category
• Yellow Pencil in Branding > Campaign Branding and Identity
• Wood Pencil in Media > Use of Events & Stunts
• Wood Pencil in Experiential > OOH
• Wood Pencil in PR > Public Affairs Campaign

Caples Creative 2020 Awards
• SILVER: PR category
• SILVER: Integrated category
• SILVER: Not For Profit category
• SILVER: Guerrilla Marketing category

Creative Circle awards
• SILVER: Best PR led Creative Idea
• SILVER: Best Charity/Public Service Integrated Campaign
• BRONZE: Best Creative Campaign for Positive Change

Campaign Publishing Awards
• Editorial Campaign of The Year

Global reach.
Local flavour.