Filling In The Blanks

Leo Burnett Costa Rica Puts Pressure on Politicians to Protect Children

How do you get the attention of a politician? Moreover, how do you get them to change their policies? Leo Burnett Costa Rica brilliantly hack the Wikipedia pages of some high-profile candidates by creating a blank chapter on their pages to bring to light the lack of children protection policies. Their ballsy campaign not only worked, it won many an accolade, including a Designism Award and Gold Cube at the 94th Annual Awards. Jorge-Luis Carrera tells us just how they did it.

One of my life mottos is ‘don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness’. Which is to say, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, you should always do what you want, especially when you think what you are doing is the right thing, or more perhaps importantly, the unpopular thing. Jorge-Luis Carrera, Creative Director at Leo Burnett Costa Rica agrees.

An important issue deserves a strong idea, even if it is illegal.

The idea in question is the Gold Cube award winning project ‘Incomplete Bios’ wherein, Jorge and his team literally hacked into the Wikipedia profiles of politicians in the running, and created a new chapter entitled “Children Protection Policies”.

Sometimes to change the system you have to break a piece of it. Shaking things up is something the creative teams of Leo Burnett are well accustomed to. And breaking the mold is often where the magic happens.

You’ve seen it time and time again – political candidates running for office, promising the promises of the past – more jobs, better economy, a brighter future. But if you really want to invest in that better future, why wouldn’t you place importance of the people that will be crucial to it? The people I’m referring to are children, and as Jorge points out, ‘children who can’t vote’.

Politicians promise the same things because they get more votes. So why would they change their proposals if people just want to hear about improving jobs and the economy, moreover, children are left forgotten because they cannot vote. It’s sad but its true.

If there is another equal truth, it’s that candidates running for office always want to protect and perfect their public image.  Leo Burnett had to find a low cost way to call out candidates about a lack of child protection policies in their agendas, in order to bring awareness to the work of Fundación Paniamor, a non-profit children’s organization.  It became abundantly clear that the only way to get the message out there was through social media and by hitting candidates where it hurt most; their egos.

“Wikipedia was the perfect match, because it’s a free social media where you can find politicians bios, edit them and then share their pages with the world. We opened a blank chapter of children protection policies to show evidence that the candidates we not proposing any child protection laws in their plans.”

It worked. In just a few hours, Twitter was abuzz with links to these newly edited pages. In about the same amount of time, Wikipedia blocked said pages. But within a month, all of the candidates that had been targeted filled out their blank chapters – including the current President of Costa Rica – with plans to include policies that protect the non-voting population.

An important issue deserves a strong idea; even if it is illegal. And Wikipedia was the ideal media for the action and the only way to intervene it. 

While it may have been a little unorthodox to pull something like this off, we have nothing but respect for this campaign. They went out of their way, not only creatively, but both the agency and the client truly inconvenienced themselves at a level of the law, all in the name of social good. We don’t doubt that these changes will bring about a domino effect. Whether the children of Costa Rica know it or not is irrelevant. The point is that a couple of brave adults finally decided to take some responsibility and do something wrong in order to do something right.

Winning both a Gold Cube and Designism Cube was a huge boost for Leo Burnett Costa Rica. “This was the first ADC Designism Cube won by a Central American agency,  and it gave our team credibility and it increased our reputation and “visibility” in the Costa Rica and beyond,” explained Jorge-Luis. “Many countries around the world can now look up to the creativity of such a small country as Costa Rica. We hope to have excellent results at the ADC 95th Annual Awards, as we focus on the same philosophy of provocative ideas that change human behavior in a positive way.”

Special Thanks To Jorge-Luis Carrera.