If you want to send your message directly to two visiting world leaders during their first official summit, you need to rethink how media is used and what media can be used to get your message across.
We decided to use traditional outdoor media in an untraditional way as it was the only media we were sure that the presidents were bound to see. So we took over every single outdoor ad space on the presidents route from the airport to the summit in downtown Helsinki.
300 billboards and digital screens were used to send our message.
Freedom of the press is one of the corner stones of Helsingin Sanomat, the Nordic’s largest newspaper. Finland also ranks fourth in the World Press Freedom Index.
Both presidents Trump and Putin are well known for their turbulent relationship with the media, with Trump outright calling facts fake news and Putin going as far as shutting down all critical media. As the two were about to hold their first official summit in Helsinki, Finland, we had to take action.
Our mission was to start a conversation about the importance of freedom of the press in modern democracies. Our objective was to gain as much media coverage as possible. As this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to take a stand for a cause close to Helsingin Sanomat's heart we needed to be as brave as possible. We couldn't be quiet, we needed to challenge the world leaders.
Describe the creative idea/insights
The creative idea was to paint a picture of how the presidents treat the media and news outlets in their respective countries and start a global movement to help preserve freedom of the press.
We calculated all the possible routes from the airport to the summit and then took over every single outdoor ad space on these routes. With 300 billboards and digital screens at our disposal we were free to tell the presidents how they have been covered in a land with one of the highest ranks in press freedom.
Our headlines were taken directly from the newspaper and translated to both Russian and English to ensure that both presidents could read them as they drove by. In addition to the headlines we decided to welcome the presidents with our campaign message "Mr President, Welcome to the land of free press."
Describe the strategy
Our strategy was to get the attention of the world leaders by using the only media that we knew they would see during their visit. Our message was simple, yet we needed enough coverage to properly convey our point. Our target audience were mainly presidents Trump and Putin but in an expanded sense the media world at large. As the world media outlets were already going to be in Helsinki we decided to give them a reminder of the importance of their jobs by targeting journalists directly at the press centre.
We had to hand pick every outdoor location and news headline from thousands of articles. With a deadline of only 16 days from idea to execution we had to act fast. Though the campaign had PR support to help spread our message, it gained traction on it's own as journalists from around the world started spreading our message.
Describe the execution
The campaign consisted of 300 outdoor ads on three routes from the airport to the summit location at the Presidential Palace in downtown Helsinki. Each outdoor ad had a headline that was picked directly from the archives of the newspaper and then translated to Russian and English.
With only 16 days from idea to execution time was critical. We had to ensure that our ads would be up and ready along the route for the presidents arrival. Additional challenges came from the fact that the police confiscated every outdoor ad spaces keys two days before the summit and some locations were hesitant to place our message in their facilities. Luckily we managed to get everything up in time and those who were hesitant understood the importance of the campaign.
The campaign was supported by a PR push that ended with the campaign getting global recognition in just hours after launch.
List the results
The campaign was covered in over 2 600 articles in 55 countries. It reached over 125 billion people and gained over 1 million social interactions.
The amount of earned media gained was 39 times larger than the goals set and the value was 203 times the media budget. New subscriptions grew by 19 % in comparison to the previous year, surpassing the business target by 2 %-units. In addition, B2B sales exceeded business targets by 10 %. Brand preference grew by 33% during the campaign.
The campaign ended up becoming a bigger news story than the actual summit itself.
It started a movement to help secure press freedom. One example is the Boston Globe initiated slew of editorials published soon after our campaign. As the Economist wrote "The Land of Free Press was a timely reminder of how endangered press freedom is worldwide."