Category G03. Digital Billboard
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


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 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

Billboards Beyond Borders broke new ground by using a “loophole” in Google Maps to create a new type of impactful advertising, never done before. We replaced existing messages on billboards on Google Street View in countries where free speech is under threat with real quotes from journalists that had been censored, threatened and murdered. After gathering quotes from people who'd been punished for speaking up against corruption, politics and 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 and 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.