A look behind Coins of Hope

Creative Social
May 25, 2016 · 7 min read

Inteview with Erwin Jansen and Samuel De Volder of These Days Y&R

So Erwin/Sam, today is National Children’s Day and you have perhaps launched one of my favourite campaigns of the last few years (well done). Tell us a little bit more about it and what you are trying to achieve?

Sam: When kids go missing, fortunately a (social) media storm whirls through our lives: most of us get to see and even take part in spreading the missing child alerts, making sure that we all know the face of the missing child. Luckily this often leads to solved cases. However, when kids are not found back fast enough, by nature attention drops, everybody moves on and we slowly forget about them.

But not Child Focus, a Belgian organisation that helps parents of lost children to deal with this horror and streamlines the search initiatives. They never lose hope and keep on fighting for every kid, while leaving no stone unturned. That’s why they wanted to raise attention and renew interest for the faces of kids that have been missing for ages.

Obviously being a charity organisation, Child Focus has no means for big media campaigns.

So we came up with an as simple as almost unachievable idea: our king is portrayed on the 2 Euro coins. What if we could replace his face with the face of one of the kids? And inject over a million coins in our monetary system which will act as probably one of the most natural advertising mediums ever, the coins we spend and receive every day. Spreading from hand to hand, from mind to mind, from nation to nation. Not just during the campaign, but for months, and years to come. The objective being to firestart a campaign which brings back these faces to the public eye.

As crazy as it sounds, that’s what we did. From today onwards, Liam Vanden Branden’ss face will now be an international symbol of hope. He disappeared 20 years ago.

Erwin: to make sure, we launched today, May 25th, the International Missing Children’s Day. Originally, this is National Missing Children’s Day in the USA and has been commemorated on May 25, since 1983, when it was first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan

On May 25, 1979, Etan Patz was only six years old when he disappeared from his New York City home on his way from bus to school. The date of Etan’s disappearance was designated as National Missing Children’s Day. At the time, cases of missing children rarely garnered national media attention, but Etan’s case quickly received a lot of coverage. His father, a professional photographer, distributed black-and-white photographs of Etan in an effort to find him. The resulting massive search and media attention that followed focused the public’s attention on the problem of child abduction and the lack of plans to address it.

So how long has this been in the making? And how did it come about?

Erwin: From first presenting the idea to Child Focus and the launch today, is it has taken roughly one year. The idea itself was floating around in the office for almost 2 years, but most of our discussions were around whether it made any sense to present to Child Focus — it just seemed impossible to make this happen. But we took our shot and Child Focus was really enthusiastic. And now we have a double world’s first: a coin with a missing child’s face on it, and the first coin with an URL on it!

What were the biggest challenges along the way and how did you overcome them?

Erwin: well, this project came with its challenges to say the least. First off: we needed a parent(s) of a missing child to approve imprinting its child’s face on the coin. We were fully aware this is sensitive and emotional. And we could only use one child. But with Child Focus and with little fuss, we pretty quickly got the OK from Liam’s father — an incredible proud and positive father. But obviously, the King of Belgium needed to OK giving up his spot ;-). Then the National Bank and Ministry of Finance needed to approve. And after that, all 19 Eurozone countries needed to approve — knowing that one “no” would mean “no go”!!!! Let’s say it took a lot of time, energy, lobbying, presenting, dealing, convincing,… J

What does success look like for this campaign?

Sam: Spreading a message of hope is in itself already very important, making every parent, even everyone, understand that Child Focus and their European counterparts are there to help and that they will never give up. And maybe, maybe this could lead to new information which might help to find some answers. To do so, we need help to spread and share our message.

What’s the one thing that someone reading this can do to help ensure that the campaign is successful?

Sam: If you receive a 2 Euro coin, check it and have a good look to see if Liams face is on it. If so: we need you to spend it as quickly as possible so other people can see it. But not without first taking your picture with the coin and sharing it via #coinsofhope and coinsofhope.be. But more importantly, if you don’t have a coin or live in a non-Euro country (borders don’t stop child abductors), please help as well: you can turn any coin into a Coin of Hope by doing a coinswap on coinsofhope.be. You never know if your share might lead to some new information…

It’s too late for Cannes but I have no doubt that this is going to be a big award winner? How important do you think awards are for agencies? Reason I ask is that I can’t help but feel that this relentless pursuit by the industry to win awards is ultimately harming the industry long term?

Sam: I think there’s nothing wrong with awards handed out for real work for real clients. Acknowledgement is important, for creatives, agencies and advertisers. But it should be the result, not the goal. Honestly, I think it will become more and more self-regulating in time, while our industry is evolving from what we like ourselves to what the public asks. Every industry is adapting, including ours, whether we like it or not. And people don’t accept bullshit anymore. So let’s deal with it.

Erwin: I also see since 2–3 years clients putting recognition by means of awards in their KPI’s. Now most award juries are made up of agencies, media, advertisers,…I believe they are becoming more relevant.

How proud are you feeling today about being in the advertising industry?

Sam: I think it never has been a more fascinating time to work in this industry. In the past we have been selling dreams and air for years. As people don’t put up with that anymore and with the help of technology, it feels like we are finally growing up. Our work is important and it’s serious business. The talent of people working in this industry helps to make sure products and services get sold, which in turn helps other people to keep their job. Sometimes I feel we tend to forget that. And let’s also not forget that the same talent also pays off when working for more altruistic causes, like the Coins of Hope for instance. We can assure you the whole team working on this campaign is proud as hell today.

How to make more projects like this happen?

Erwin: 1% inspiration and 99% transpiration. Bold believers in big ideas just don’t take no for an answer and will go back time and time again to their clients to convince them…

What campaigns from the last 12 months has inspired you?

Nazis against Nazis:

ALS Eye Click Donation:

Slow Down GPS:

The Man Boobs campaign for MACMA

And the Andes beer fake casting call campaign, because it’s so funny.

Finally one of the biggest topics right now in the industry is diversity and our next CS Presents in London is focused on difference being the secret ingredient for creativity? Do you agree with this?

Erwin: it’s one of my personal pet projects. Diversity is what makes the world go round, and our industry needs to push the pedal to the metal to become maximally inclusive of people with different backgrounds, religions, sex, races, tastes, you name it.

Thanks Erwin and Sam. Good luck with the campaign and I am sure these coins will bring back hope to hundreds of families who have lost their children (I am still shocked by the stat that a child is reported missing every two minutes in Europe). And well done

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