Closer than you think - Child Focus | Effie case 2018

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Child Focus - Closer than you think

Closer than you think

Bronze Effie
Child Focus - Wunderman

Child Focus - Closer than you think

Closer than you think

Bronze Effie
Child Focus - Wunderman


Child Focus is the Belgian center for missing and sexually exploited children. The organization spreads information about missing children by publishing their pictures and descriptions. As witnesses are vital in finding these children, it is key to reach and engage with as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

Over the years, Child Focus' key communication strategy has transitioned from paper posters to a combination of offline and online channels. Online platforms allow for Child Focus' missing child posters to rapidly reach a broader and more diverse audience. Since there is virtually no advertising or media budget present to invest in digital media, over the years, public involvement proved to be crucial to ensuring the missing child posters were shared online.


Behavioral objective
Increasing Facebook shares The ultimate goal of the Closer Than You Think campaign was to instigate a behavioral change. The campaign highlighted that sharing missing child posters with your network can help in connecting potential witnesses. The campaign had one clear call-to-action: share the posters on Facebook.

Perception objective
Raising people's involvement Belgian citizens are a valuable source of tips in many missing child cases. Yet, Child Focus indicated that many Belgians either do not realize they have an active role to play or are not interested in taking on this role because they do not feel closely involved with the cases of missing children.


People only share things they feel involved with or connected to
There are several reasons why people share content on social channels, with involvement being a crucial factor. There needs to be a connection with the content in order for people to share the message. 'It's something happening far away from me' and, 'It never happens in my neighborhood' are responses often heard when people are asked why they don't share missing child posters. The general public doesn't feel connected to the missing children and therefore don't see the need to share the posters.

In a 2017 study ordered by Child Focus, 52% of the Belgian population indicated that they did not feel personally involved with Child Focus' mission of finding missing children. This led to the strategic approach of the campaign: in order to increase the share-rate of missing child posters on Facebook, Child Focus would indicate the proximity of missing children and increase the feeling of connection.

To make them feel connected we had to show them that they actually were
We based the campaign on the theory of six degrees of separation - the idea that two complete strangers can be connected through a chain of only five people - as popularized by Harvard University professor Stanley Milgram's small-world experiment. To do this, we aimed to demonstrate that less than 6 connections separate everyone from a missing child, and also a potential witness. This way, the 6 degrees of separation theory was used as a strategic idea to initiate behavioral change, by proving there is always a connection between you and any missing child, convincing both emotional and rational thinkers.

Elaborating on the strategy
Child Focus conducted a social experiment that put the 6 degrees of separation theory to the test using 4 randomly selected participants. A 'human chain' involving a maximum of five relatives, friends or acquaintances connected the participants with Gevriye Cavas (a boy that went missing in 1985 at the age of 5).

The whole experiment was filmed and edited as a social media video (in Dutch, French and English), which ended with a clear call-to-action to share future missing child posters. On International Missing Children's Day, the video was shared on social media. To make sure our message would stay in people's minds, we also asked them to follow Child Focus' Facebook page to continue receiving updates about children that go missing and be reminded to keep on sharing the posters.

In addition, the original social experiment was personalized for 5 national celebrities: Thibaut Courtois, Natalia Druyts, Charles Michel, Lieven Scheire and Rudi Vranckx. Because of Donald Trump's visit to Brussels, Her Majesty Queen Mathilde, honorary president of Child Focus, invited Melania Trump for a meeting with Child Focus. Subsequently, the social experiment was also conducted with the first lady of the United States. The videos were posted on their public Facebook and/or Twitter pages.

The success of the campaign attracted the attention of Club Brugge and as a result, the national football champions chose to put the 'Closer Than You Think' campaign back in the spotlight during their annual charity event. The social experiment was repeated by linking Club Brugge captain and former Red Devil Timmy Simons to Gevriye in five steps. The video was shown in Jan Breydel stadium and published on Club Brugge's social media channels.


Our results show an average increase of 387% in effective shares and an average uplift of 202% in reach for the Child Focus missing child Facebook posters.

We also noticed an interesting pattern in the rate of tips received concerning child disappearances. The correlation between the number of shares and testimonies received remained significant throughout the campaign. This means that the increased shares were qualitative shares and directly led to more testimonies.

On June 12, 2017, which was during our campaign's first weeks, Jihane E. - a 6 year-old girl - went missing. What happened after her poster was published on Child Focus' Facebook page may be the campaign's most important result. 56,073 Shares resulted in 1.8 million people reached in a single night and, more importantly, 4 witnesses coming forward. She was found within 48 hours. The case received national press coverage. The authorities explicitly thanked the public for sharing the call for witnesses.

As for our second objective - raising people's involvement - 57% of respondents who had seen the campaign indicated feeling 'personally involved' or 'strongly involved' with Child Focus' mission of finding missing children. A staggering difference of 12% compared to respondents that did not see the campaign.

An additional indicator of increased involvement with Child Focus and its causes is the spectacular increase in the number of 'fans' of the Child Focus Facebook page. Liking a page is making a statement that you care about the brand or cause and want to be made aware of future posts and communication. The Child Focus page went from 61.235 fans on May 20, 2017, to 72.411 fans the following week. Moreover, while the fan base was stable prior to these efforts, it kept growing even after the steep increase that immediately followed the campaign. Five months after the campaign, the number of 'fans' had increased by 49,5%. No previous Child Focus campaigns have had this impact.

Child Focus
Heidi De Pauw

Heidi De Pauw obtained a Master in criminology, a Post-graduate in human and social sciences and a Master in Business administration.

After working at the Ministry of home affairs, she started at Child Focus as case manager in charge of the files of missing and sexually exploited children. After 7 years at Child Focus, Heidi became Secretary General of Eurochild and became director of PAG-ASA afterwards.

Since November 2011 she is CEO of Child Focus and board member of several organisations.

Child Focus - Heidi De Pauw

Evert Van den Broeck

After obtaining Masters in Strategic Communication and Organization & Management, Evert started out as an advertising researcher at the department of Communication Sciences of the University of Antwerp.

In 2017 Evert joined the team of Strategic Planners at Wunderman Antwerp. He works on clients such as Child Focus, Danone, Lunch Garden and MediaMarkt. In his spare time, he is finalizing his PhD project on personalized online advertising.

Wunderman - Evert Van den Broeck