The ITF is a global union federation of transport workers’ trade unions, founded in 1896. The ITF’s automation mission is to support unions around the world in caring for the social and labour rights of transport workers. Today, they work with over 650 unions to protect a combined workforce of over 19 million workers.

Digital Willow was successful in a competitive pitch of 8 communications agencies, winning the chance, amoungst other things, to position and broadcast the ITF’s voice on the topic of ‘automation in the workplace’.

The ITF’s head office in London was undergoing a period of turbulence and change. The pace of change was stupendous for the union federation as many transport workers were losing jobs to automated machines all over the world; the average worker needed a voice to stand up for them.

The ITF were furthermore facing a skillset mismatch and called for an internal communications overhaul. The Secretariat called on urgent external support, and Digital Willow filled that gap.

Digital Willow approach

Becoming a thought leader on a global front is no easy task, especially with a limited budget. Digital Willow delivered a multi-faceted plan that reached three audiences; workers, policy makers and union leaders.

We created a communications plan whereby workers felt heard and united across the world. Policy makers were forced to think about the effect that automation was having on the people; we also gave a narrative to Union Leaders all over the world to support them in their local transport unions.

The communications plan was delivered globally, with a focus on countries where automation was particularly aggressive; UK, USA, Germany, Australia & Canada.

We made the best use of advertising spend by constantly monitoring and optimising the marketing channels with an unprecedented granularity.  We use live digital data and the human behaviour insights from the campaign to adapt our content and tactics on a regular basis.

We created and distributed emotive content every few days on ITF’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube), using different strategies for each channel and focussing on growing followers and increasing conversations. Through this activity and the support of paid media, we built momentum online and began to establish the ITF as one of the thought leaders in the “automation in the workplace” debate.


Looking at the results of the ITF campaign from the 1st May – 31st December 2017, we can clearly see that it has been a massive success.

Facebook has had the biggest increase of likes, showing a growth of a whopping 151%. 71% of this audience engaged at least once with the page, with an average of 18,105 engagements every month!

In 6 months on social media we had reached 1.5 million people and over 250,000 engagements with a message about automation and workers rights.  The communications program also had another additional benefit, it began to unite all the unions around the world and kick start their own grass roots versions of our global campaign.

We reached and maintained an average position of 1.0 globally on Google Search, with an average cost per click (CPC) of £0.48. Our paid communication was seen on Google Search an incredible 366,958 times with a click-through rate of 2.27% - this is well above the industry standard of 1.9%.

Furthermore, we achieved some incredible results with the videos we created and distributed on You Tube.  The average cost per view (CPV) was only £0.03! The view rate was a massive 36.56%, meaning that more than a third of the people who saw the thumbnail also watched the video.  We had over 136,000 views of the automation videos.