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Clarity Connections: Meeting Freuds+, our earned behavior change partner

By Alice Spraggon

At Clarity, we’re proud to be able to fearlessly drive results for our clients, wherever they - or their audiences - are in the world. We have teams with digital marketing, website development, public affairs, and communications expertise across our UK, Benelux, East and West Coast U.S., and Australian offices, alongside a fantastic network of partners, our Clarity Connections, that expand our services even further.

In this blog, we’ll be chatting with Julia Bainbridge, Partner at Freuds and founder of Freuds+. Freuds+ is unique. Its approach to campaigning applies behavior change science to earned media in order to create culture-defining moments that affect real, meaningful change. Check out some of its fantastic work with the likes of NHS England, Alziehmer’s Research UK, AstraZeneca and the WHO Foundation here.

Julia Bainbridge, Partner at Freuds and founder of Freuds+
Hi Julia! Give us your elevator pitch for what Freuds+ does?

Freuds+ is an evolution of what has been happening within Freud Communications for a long time. I have to give credit to Matthew Freud who has been leading the charge with global health campaigns since Freuds’ inception just under 40 years ago. Freuds helped tackle HIV with Project Red, and was the comms team behind the first Live Aid in 1985

At Freuds+ we’ve specialized and continued that important work for large scale behavior change campaigns with the likes of Public Health England to reduce smoking rates; the NHS to encourage more people to spot the signs and symptoms of cancer; and even Adoption agencies across the UK to encourage more people to consider adopting. Our work has been iconic and chimes with popular culture. We’ve been our own entity for just under two years, and grew and evolved significantly in response to the massive need for campaigns like this during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Today we’re a team of around 30 consultants known for a rigorous scientific insight led approach to societal challenges, with the output being creative storytelling campaigns rooted in our proven track record for impact.

Which team do you predominantly work with at Clarity, and what kind of work do you do together?

We collaborate with senior members of the team to provide consultancy whenever a Clarity client is looking to change audience behaviors. This predominantly sees us working with the public affairs team; I have known Nick Lansman, Clarity’s President of Public Affairs for many years.

Clarity’s public affairs team has a direct channel into government, and that isn’t one of our capabilities for good reason: a lot of the time our client is the Government, so we can’t be lobbying them. However, having a leading public affairs team on speed dial is critical for many of our campaigns where we do need to be reaching government bodies to trigger change. We have collaborated, for example, on a campaign with UCLA - Clarity was supporting it to tackle critical health issues through lobbying, and our earned skills helped its message to reach wider audiences.

You’ve recently started working with Clarity on building understanding around psychedelic medicine. Could you share what progress you've made so far, and what the desired outcome is of this work?

Yes, we have a very exciting joint venture in the works: the Psychedelics Coalition. As more and more research comes out about how psychedelics can support the treatment of unmet mental health needs, we identified an important opportunity to educate the UK government and wider population about this topic. This is especially important as we see a growth in private sector psychedelic entrepreneurs.

The coalition is intended to educate and shape thinking in a mindful, ethical way based on rigorous scientific evidence. It will also act as counsel for the private sector when this market begins to ramp up growth.

What is the biggest trend or innovation that Freuds+ has been championing in 2023?

Earlier this year we launched the Freuds+ Model for Change, which is a unique proprietary approach to behavior change through comms co-created with the OG architect of the COM-B model for behavior change, Professor Robert West.

The COM-B model was developed by Susan Michie, Maartje van Stralen, and Professor Robert West in 2011. Its premise is that capability (C), opportunity (O), and motivation (M), are the three factors that need to be present for a behavior to be prioritized over and above competing behaviors at any given moment in time. Using this framework as our foundation we have developed a model for behavior change that can be applied to earned media.

We use the COM-B model to diagnose a client’s challenge ahead of using a rigorous process to provide a recommendation that will genuinely enable behavior change. An understanding of the context in which audiences are operating in is also key to building a sound strategy, and if this context keeps on changing we keep revisiting the strategy to ensure that what we’re recommending is effective long-term.

Behavior change approaches are currently known for being successfully applied to healthcare problems but we’re excited to take behavior change to other areas of social impact, including tackling climate change, cybercrime, and ensuring online child safety.

We’re currently offering workshops on how to use the model for organizations who want to make a positive difference through behavior change. We bring Professor West into these workshops, and he works with clients to help them diagnose their own challenges. It’s an exciting proposition that works and we can’t wait to take it further.

Do you have a case study of some truly innovative work you’ve done recently that you’d like to share? 

It’s less recent, but we’re extremely proud of the work we did with DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care), OHID (Office for Health Improvement and Disparities) and NHS England to tackle vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Throughout the pandemic, behavior change campaigns were so important, and tackling vaccine hesitancy was one of the most important elements of this. We started working on these campaigns long before the vaccine roll-out because the Government and NHS were conscious of the increasing volume of mis- and dis-information that was already impacting peoples’ propensity to get vaccinated. We were laser-focused on diffusing this anxiety in a subtle and mindful way with the intention of boosting the percentage of vaccinated people in the UK to 80%. 

A more recent piece of work saw us working with the Terrence Higgins Trust on the launch of their first at-home self-testing kits for HIV. They needed a brand refresh and creative overhaul to reach broader audience segments - for example, not just men but the wider LGBTQIA+ community. The campaign we created was so effective that they very quickly ran out of tests after launch!

One of our proudest campaigns was a partnership we created between Public Health England and Treatwell to encourage more women to attend cervical screening appointments. The insight behind our campaign was that women are nervous to take up the offer to get their cervix checked, but are very willing to spend £50 on an intimate wax, with the latter arguably being more painful and revealing! So we worked with Treatwell (an innovative beauty booking platform) to reach women at the point where they were booking a wax to highlight this contrary behavior. The result was 100,000 more women took up offers to get screened during the campaign period, which has the scope to have caught many cancers early to prevent them becoming serious.

Tell me about your team - who is who and what’s your culture like?

The culture amongst the wider Freuds team in London is very fun, and work hard play hard. I’ve just gone on maternity leave and will really miss the office buzz. Freuds+ is a separate entity but we’re on the same floor, and there are 250 of us altogether. This fosters a close, collaborative spirit that enables us to tap people from all different specialties if we need something beyond our own capabilities or offering. This also naturally helps us deliver bespoke solutions to clients, all under the Freuds umbrella.

The Freuds+ team ranges from former government workers, to royal household staff, to ex-journalists, to behavioral science specialists, to pure publicists! The leaders on my team are:

Freuds+ Team Picture

Clarity’s values are that we’re fearless, global, and positive - could you share any examples of what Freuds+ is doing that also fits under those themes?

Our values are culture, connectivity, and courage which leads to change; I believe courage connects well with Clarity’s fearless value.

What we mean by courage is we want to empower our clients to be brave enough to tell the truth. One of my favorite Matthew Freud quotes is, “if you want a better reputation, be better” - it’s amazing how many agencies are happy to take on an unscrupulous client with a weak intention to clean them up. 

We’re very selective about the clients they take on. Does the brand actually want to do broad and brilliant work, do they actually want to walk the walk - or do they just want a sheen? If they want the latter, we’re not the right agency for you.

Anything else you want to add?

If you’re curious about what we do, we’re always up for a conversation. Like I said before, we love running workshops and show-and-tells with brands that want to think differently and are interested in finding out more about our Model for Change.

Reach out to us here if you’d be interested in finding out more about how partnering with Clarity and Freuds+ could help your brand make meaningful change.

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