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Step 1

What needs to be achieved?


Step 2

What obstacles need to be overcome?


Step 3

How to maximise engagement?


Step 4

How we turned insights into action


Step 5

What was the outcome for the business and audience?

Pensions and Processing Fluency

The easier it is to understand something the more likely we are to accept it as true.



Usdaw is the trade union representing people working in the retail and distribution sector, many of whom are low paid, living week to week on the wages they earn. The UK government’s pension auto enrolment scheme meant all employers were obliged to enrol their staff in a pension scheme but the employees had the option to opt-out. It was feared that around 3 in 10 would choose not to join.

For many of our members every penny of their wages count. There was a serious possibility that as many as 30% would chose to save themselves some money now and opt out of the scheme. This would obviously have serious implications when they got to retirement age

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Debra Blow

Pensions Officer

While employees in some larger companies were offered generous employer contribution incentives, many in other companies or working for smaller businesses weren’t. 

The union is not authorised to offer personal financial advice, nor would they want to, but they did want to make sure every member understood exactly what was happening and left in no doubt as to the importance of being in a pension scheme.


There had been a government advertising campaign when auto enrolment was introduced. But this had been some time ago and had either made little impact on Usdaw members, or was simply forgotten.

Usdaw found that a majority of their members thought pensions were ‘confusing’ and ‘boring’. In common with a lot of people, Usdaw members weren’t clear how pensions worked and considered the subject too complicated. As a result, those members avoided engaging in conversations about pensions. 

They also found that a significant number of the predominantly low paid Usdaw members were already struggling financially and were reluctant to give up a percentage of their income each week. They would be motivated to opt out of the pension scheme.


Pre-video: 3 in 10 expected to opt out

Auto Enrolment had been introduced specifically to help low paid workers save for retirement but it was clear that more needed to be done to convince them.

Usdaw were concerned that the only available materials that explained and encouraged pensions would be counter-productive. They were either too detailed - reinforcing the perception of complexity - or too dry - and their members would ‘switch off’.


The government had introduced an automatic enrolment to take advantage of the Status Quo Bias – inertia makes you more likely to agree to something when you don’t have to think about it or do anything to be included. (Brigitte C. Madrian and Dennis F. Shea, “The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior,” (2001) and Shlomo Benartzi and Richard H. Thaler, “Behavioral Economics and the Retirement Savings Crisis,”(2013))

Usdaw were concerned that members’ motivation to keep as much of their weekly income as possible would override the status quo bias and lead to high opt-out rates.

Usdaw wanted to help their members make an informed decision and make them aware of the dangers of not having a pension. Many Studies have shown that raising fear levels and then presenting a way to eliminate that fear is a very effective strategy to encourage a desired behaviour. A specific study on pensions by Behavioural Psychologist, Jo Hemmings for Scottish Widows, has demonstrated that showing a group of people a short video about financial hardship in retirement resulted in 90% reviewing their provision and increasing their monthly pension contributions by 2-5% on average. 

However, a balance had to be struck. Usdaw didn’t want to significantly add to the anxiety levels of members who were already struggling to cope and had no realistic option but to opt out. 

So, while there would be an element of fear, we would focus on dispelling the confusion around pensions. We know that people are more likely to believe and accept things that they find simple to understand. (Processing or Cognitive Fluency). Giving people clarity on a subject helps them feel a sense of Agency, which often leads to more positive decision making. 
We would briefly let them know there is an option to opt out and present it visually as an individual isolated and removed from the group


The client was initially looking to produce a traditional presenter-led video but given the need to make it light (entertaining) and ‘feel’ simple we proposed using animation.

We decided to reinforce the simplicity of the message by adopting a simple style of animation - with the central character as a ‘stick person’. We also included a little humour and chose a warm, relatable voiceover and light-hearted upbeat music to make the message as appealing and entertaining as possible.
Usdaw Auto Enrolment


Many more DVD copies than expected were ordered for use in workplaces and was available to members via the Usdaw website. It was reported that the video was extremely well received and the union even had requests from outside organisations to be allowed to use it for their staff.

The video won the TUC award for Best Communication and more importantly helped convince many members that they should be part of the pension scheme. As of 2018 the opt out rate amongst members was less than 10% (expected to be around 30%)

Post-video: Over 90% take up achieved

The video had a big impact. It engaged our members and played a significant part in the success of our campaign

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Debra Blow

Pensions Officer

We have produced over 40 videos for Halfords.