2018 Brand Experience & Activation


Short List
Category A13. Not-for-profit / Charity / Governemt
Idea Creation ÅKESTAM HOLST Stockholm, SWEDEN
Production ÅKESTAM HOLST Stockholm, SWEDEN
Additional Company FROM STOCKHOLM WITH LOVE Stockholm, SWEDEN
Name Company Position
Magnus Jakobsson Åkestam Holst NoA Executive Creative Director
Simon Lublin Åkestam Holst NoA Copywriter
Martin Noreby Åkestam Holst NoA Art Director
Hugo Wallmo Åkestam Holst NoA Art Director
Evelina Rönnung Åkestam Holst NoA Art Director
Ida Persson Åkestam Holst NoA PR Strategist
Sara Clewemar Åkestam Holst NoA Account Director
Albin Muji Åkestam Holst NoA Account Manager
Karl Wikström Åkestam Holst NoA Planner
Kenna Magnusson Åkestam Holst NoA Creative Designer

Why is this work relevant for Brand Experience & Activation ?

Billboards Beyond Borders used the possibilities of the digital world to do something we couldn't have done in real life. By putting the words of murdered or silenced journalists and activists on obsolete billboards in Google Street View, our freedom messages reached places we couldn't have reached before. The use of technology allowed us to demonstrate freedom of information where there is none, without the possibility for corrupt governments to take it away. The billboards gave everyone the possibility to walk around in a world more free than the one we live in.


The situation for journalists is getting worse all over the world. Last year, 65 reporters were killed and 326 were jailed. Oppressive governments create a dangerous environment for journalists and suppress freedom of information. Without journalism, the world becomes a more dangerous place, and the people outside the affected countries are deprived information about what is going on inside oppressive regimes. The brief was to draw attention to the urgent situation for reporters around the world, and show the general public how important a world with freedom of information is. One of our objectives was also to show that the situation for journalists is getting worse in most parts of the world, not only the usual suspects that everyone already knows about. Furthermore we were asked to make Reporters Without Borders the natural go-to source when it comes the questions of freedom of information.

Describe the creative idea

We gathered quotes that had led to incarceration or murder of the journalists and re-published them on billboards in the countries they originated from. But since the quotes would never be allowed in the real streets of the countries, we used a loophole. By downloading 360 spheres from Google Street View, altering them in photoshop and then uploading them again, we put the messages (along with the author and their punishment) on the streets of corrupt countries. Freedom messages for anyone to see, impossible for corrupt governments to delete, right on the real Google Street View. We spread the campaign with a promotional video, and a website where we informed about the declining press freedom around the world. The billboards looked like they were real billboards at first glance, but when looking closer you got directed to our campaign website where you could learn more.

Describe the strategy

Since the decline of freedom of information is a global problem, we needed to reach out on a global level. And since Reporters Without Borders is an NGO with a limited budget, we needed to be smart about the execution. By utilizing some of the thousands of obsolete billboards on Google Street View we made our messages available for most people in the world, without spending a single dollar in media budget. The billboards are relevant for anyone who stumbles across them when strolling around in Google Street View, and works to attract people to our website where we further informed them about the urgent situation for journalists around the globe.

Describe the execution

After gathering quotes from people who had been punished for speaking up against corruption, tyranny or lack of human rights we researched Google Street View to find the best billboard locations in the respective countries of the quotes. We then downloaded the 360 spheres, altered the billboards in photoshop and re-uploaded them to the real Google Street View using the “community contribution”-function. The billboards were uploaded at the same time in New York, Istanbul, Bangkok and other major cities in repressive countries. A total of seven different cities were covered in our freedom messages. The billboards were spread organically through Reporters Without Borders's social account and through PR.

List the results

The campaign rapidly made a positive media footprint in local markets, including big news outlets in the US and Russia. But it really took off when it reached massive Russian influencer and author Rustem Adagamov on Twitter and the political movement opposing Trump. On average, every billboard had over 130.000 visits. And then what we were anticipating happened - Google took down the campaign for violating Google Maps policy, helping us create a second wave of PR. American CNBC made a big feature covering the takedown and the irony of Google removing a censorship campaign, promoting the continued importance of fighting for freedom of speech everywhere. All in all, Billboards Beyond Borders achieved an earned media reach of 100 000 000 people globally with zero media budget. Using nothing more than the right message in the right place, we had put the fight for freedom of speech on the map.