Category B02. Public Affairs & Lobbying
Name Company Position
John Crombez SP.A – Socialist Party President
Gorik Van Holen SP.A – Socialist Party Campaign Leader
Conner Rousseau SP.A – Socialist Party Head of Social Media
Karen Corrigan Happiness / an FCB alliance Executive Creative Management
Geoffrey Hantson Happiness / an FCB alliance Chief Creative Officer
Eline Goethals Happiness / an FCB alliance Strategic & Connectivity Director
Barbara Dzikanowice Happiness / an FCB alliance Concept Provider
Hans Smets Happiness / an FCB alliance Group Account Director
Tine Van Hasselt Happiness / an FCB alliance Account Manager
Wouter Geertis Happiness / an FCB alliance Editor/ Motion designer
Lisa Gadeyne Happiness / an FCB alliance DOP
Sumi Arcos Mina Happiness / an FCB alliance DOP

Why is this work relevant for PR?

With the elections approaching and some disappointing polls, Labour Party sp.a could use some (positive) press. For months they had been trying to get the topic of the debt industry into the press. The main reason? Sp.a had a very traditional PR-approach which involved sending out press-releases and extensive dossiers. Journalists weren’t exactly itching with anticipation to dive into these materials. Sp.a had stories to tell, they just needed some storytelling. We chose for an entirely new PR-strategy. Bottom-up instead of top-down: by making people care first and sharing our work with ‘the people’ first, instead of the press.


SITUATION More than 300 000 Belgians live in debt. Mostly, debts made in order to survive such as school bills, gas and electricity bills, hospital costs. Sadly, there is an entire industry of debt collectors charging extra, excessive fees for their services. Turning a €200 invoice into a €2000 ordeal. This pushes debtors ever further over the edge. Sp.a, the Belgian Labour party, wanted to stop these malpractices. Only… they didn’t get the press they’d hoped for. The party had been pitching the topic to the press for months, with meticulously prepared press releases and articles, but no one was biting. BRIEF Find a new way to tell this story, so it gets picked up by the media. OBJECTIVES Get the ‘debt industry’ topic on the agenda of the press and the political agenda.

Describe the creative idea

#DebtPoetry is a series of social videos in which debtors simply read their case out loud. As if it’s poetry. The videos painfully show just how excessive these fees are. Because they’re citing a never-ending list of costs charged by debt collectors such as bailiffs, lawyers, etc.

Describe the strategy

The campaign was set up in order to reach all Belgians and to get this topic on the public agenda. Research showed that this topic isn’t something Belgians are confronted with every day. We had to find a way to make it relevant to them, to make them care about it. Instead of just communicating with the press upfront, we wanted to use a reverse tactic: we made people care first and knew press would follow. That’s why we created emotional social videos that were spread by both the sp.a national page and their big network (which we call the ‘pod’) of influencers and thought leaders. Everyone followed a strict scheme of when which video was released. By doing this, we wanted to awaken press on the topic & hoped they would notice. And they did.

Describe the execution

We created 3 social videos which all showed the emotional side of people in debt. The sp.a ‘pod’ of thought leaders and engagers started sharing these videos, all combining a lot of views, engagement and re-shares. The videos were released in a timeframe of 24 hours, to create a peak in attention. Through the timely push of all pod-members together, many people saw the videos & started engaging. Press noticed this and jumped on the bandwagon by publishing several articles on the debt industry issue. The most remarkable part? Press picked the topic up after being online for only 2 hours. John Crombez, the party chairman, was invited to discuss the topic on prime time television the same day we posted the videos.

List the results

Media output: every large national press source wrote about #DebtPoetry. They didn’t only write about the videos, but also gave attention to the legislative proposals of the party to solve this issue, which was our main objective. Sp.a invested only 125 euros in Facebook promotions of their videos but achieved to reach 296.183 people in total. Our sentiment tracker measured over 85% of positive comments, making it one of the most ‘positively welcomed’ posts of sp.a. We were able to rally people behind a topic they didn’t really care about at first. The post was shared more than 1000 times. Since sp.a is a political party, we measure business outcome by the level of attention to their policy proposals. They were trying to get debt & debt industry on the public agenda for 5 months, #DebtPoetry only needed 2 hours to convince all main press sources. Only 25% of the people reached with these videos were sp.a. fans. So: we increased our audience instead of only communicating to our loyal fanbase. In an election poll held one month after the campaign, the party rose for the first time after a long-during decline. But more importantly, the Belgian Parliament listened to the party’s demands. The first reminder for unpaid bills is now free of charge and the payment deadline is now 30 days instead of 15. The power of poetry. Also when it comes to politics.