Puerto Rico has long been known as a destination for laid-back beach trips, but last year, this vacation retreat attracted a different kind of attention: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime identified Puerto Rico as one of the more dangerous islands in the Caribbean.
The year 2011 ended as the most violent year in the history of Puerto Rico, registering 1,136 murders at a rate of 30.5 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest on the island since 1940.
Despite numerous advertising campaigns attempting to discourage criminal behaviour, nothing had worked until then. At least three murders took place on the streets of Puerto Ricoeach day, 52% of them directly related to drug trafficking operations. According to the Police Department, 2012 seemed unchangeable. They even expected a 15% increase compared to 2011.
Dead in the centre of this domestic warfare were Puerto Rico’s young adults who, like young adults everywhere, were resistant to the voices of authority. The Puerto Rico government would have to try a more personal and relevant approach to get through to the youth they were losing.
Having established that mass media messages were ineffective, Starcom MediaVest Group turned to social media, which, like social media everywhere, is the leading communication channel among young adults. But they couldn’t simply interject more government warnings into this arena, which would be equally dismissed; the agency had to find a way to influence their target on their own terms. Because the advantage of social media is one-on-one connection, how could they connect their audience, one-on-one, with the tragic consequences of violent criminal behaviour?
Starcom convinced the Puerto Rico Correctional and Rehabilitation Department to allow something that other prisons in the world would have never allowed: Twitter communication between convicted felons in prison and free citizens on the street. Followers would be able to interact with inmates and learn, one-on-one, how grim a life behind bars really is. The agency believed that the most effective deterrent to crime was the criminal himself.
Starcom created the first Twitter campaign that uses real tweets from real inmates as a crime deterrent. Altering the common language associated with Twitter engagement, they named the program Follow2unfollow Me, clearly focusing this interaction on learning lessons from the dire mistakes of others. Followers would interact with convicted felons and truly experience how miserable prison really is. And, ideally, not follow in their footsteps.
Starcom provided Internet access through iPhones, Android phones, tablets and computers to three inmates so they could setup Twitter accounts and share the harshness of their everyday lives to followers. People chose between a wide range of prisoner’s stories that were unique and emotionally charged. Young people’s curiosity was the key engagement driver.
A target relevant multimedia campaign filled out the delivery of the Follow2unfollow Me message across paid, owned and earned platforms. The agency created and produced a TV spot, radio spots/mentions, billboards, restroom boards, online banners & print ads.
In addition, a press conference was held to launch the effort. But most importantly, Starcom leveraged their relationship with top media vendors and made a multimedia campaign without investing a single dollar. All media vendors agreed to donate their advertising inventory/space for the project.
Within hours, the media picked up on it and the press coverage exploded. The chosen inmates’ Twitter accounts got thousands of followers on the week after the launch. With $0 media investment, the campaign got over $1.1m in earned media with an unprecedented multimedia reach over 90% and 44% awareness. Just a few days after the campaign was launched, Follow2unfollow was the main topic of conversation in the news, in tweets and on blogs not only in PR but also across the world.
This first-of-its-kind campaign enabled a seemingly impossible dialogue that redirects the pathway to violence. On a survey* of 500 respondents who were exposed to the campaign, 54% said that they would now reconsider their actions and decisions in order to avoid a life of crime.
*Source: Online survey, Sample: 500 respondents | Livra Panels | 12.18.12 to 12.27.12
This campaign picked up the 'Creative Use of Media' and 'Best Social Media Campaign' Awards at The Festival of Media LatAm 2013.