Best Practice from San Markos.
How to protect the momentous past events from turning into a dusty card of our history? How to revive historical developments and make them a part of the present? How to create a narrative which will make young people eagerly wait to see what happens in the end, although they already know the final result from their history lessons?
What is history now?
Celebrating historical events often turns out to be an empty ritual with no relation to the present. Even the cruelest events of the WWII will slowly turn into a solemn celebration quite meaningless for the young generations.
The Warsaw Uprising is such a case. The 63 day-long fight between the citizens of Warsaw and German occupants which took place in August 1944 is one of the most dramatic and tragic happenings in the Polish modern history.
The average age of people who sacrificed their lives in the Warsaw Uprising fights was the mere18, and now only the 80 years old can really understand the importance of those events, but they slowly fall into oblivion together with the passing away of those in whose memory they are organized.
What is more, as a research made on the commission of one of the most popular Polish dailies depicts, almost half of Polish citizens describe the events of the WWII as not really interesting.
As the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising was approaching, the Promotion Department of the City of Warsaw was looking for a campaign which would go beyond the standard celebrating and we - San Markos advertising agency - decided to face this challenge.
How to bend time to revive historical events?
In order to awake historical curiosity and make the celebration of those events closer to young people, a special project was prepared. As we came to the conclusion that these are the stories told by a buddy/mate that are the ones most eagerly listened to, we’ve decided that the best way to attract the attention of young people is reaching them via Facebook.
We created two profiles on Facebook: Sosna Twentyfour (Sosna Dwadziesciacztery) and Kostek Twentythree (Kostek Dwadziesciatrzy). They were a couple of young Warsaw inhabitants who provided a day-to-day live account of the whole 63 days the Warsaw Uprising.
They used the language characteristic for the contemporary young people to tell the story of their everyday experiences and put up the pictures showing the atmosphere of those days. Using FB tools, we created a virtual diary enriched with pictures, links, quizzes, songs from that time, para-documentary films shot with mobile phones.
A rough sketch of a scenario of the campaign was prepared in advance while exact details of everyday happenings were discussed during a planning meeting at the beginning of every week of the project.
The team had to adjust to the “natural life” of Facebook, which is most often visited during the week rather than at the weekends. At least 4 commentaries were uploaded every day, together with pictures, songs, links etc. Thanks to the courtesy of Getty Images company, it was possible to present young people with some of the most interesting pictures reflecting the everyday reality of those times.
The historical books and diaries of those who took part in it were the main source of knowledge about the course of the Warsaw Uprising. A thorough research made in advance of the project enabled the creative team to truly report on the actual events of the Uprising and enrich them with some characters and discussions to present the atmosphere as distinctly as possible.
However, the process of education was not only directed in one way - from those who tell the story to those who listen. In a short while, people who were following Sosna and Kostek on Facebook started to discuss the reported events by giving some additional information to those mentioned by the insurgents, and wondering if the decisions our characters had made were right or wrong.
That was both a motivation and a burden, as each post had to be thought through at least twice before its publication.
Not only fighting…
The report of Sosna and Kostek was based on two themes: fighting and love. Although both of our heroes fought in the same district of Warsaw, they could barely see each other, but for some short reunions. Therefore, a third character was introduced: Sosna’s friend – Romka.
In this way, the girls could talk about their doubts and fears regarding Sosna & Kostek relationship, what made the story even more interesting. That helped to create an emotional boundary between the characters and the internauts, who could actually feel as if they knew Sosna and Kostek being able to know their thoughts, fears and dreams.
As the project was developing, a decision was made that the campaign should not be limited to Facebook only. A special urban game was created. “Friends” of Kostek and Sosna had to find places/spots in Warsaw, which were described on their profiles. Everyone who found the place/spot and a special mark hidden in that localization had to put a mobile picture of the fictitious insurgents on the profile. These were mainly “guns” delivered by the alliances.
Another off-Facebook activity was making special para-documentary films with the participation of our heroes. With the help of a special team specializing in reconstructing historical events, the scenes from the Uprising were arranged and shot with mobile phones.
Those films were placed on Sosna’s and Kostek’s profiles and youtube, so that their followers could watch their “friends” in action. Thus, we managed not only to bend the time and transport the internauts into the 1944, but also make Sosna and Kostek live in the present.
At the very end of the project, a special meeting was organized in order to thank all the people who took part in the project, both on the side of the internauts and the agency. During the event, the friends of Kostek and Sosna and people who “played their roles” for those 63 days could meet, talk and exchange their experiences and remarks concerning the project.
PR together with social media
As the action was developing, it quickly turned out, that inviting people only via Facebook was not enough. As in the mid of 2009, this social service in Poland was only just becoming popular, we also needed to reach people who didn’t have an account on this service.
In order to do that, we contacted bloggers writing about historical topics. Also one of the most popular Polish bookmarking sites – Wykop.pl (Polish version of Digg.com) offered to promote the project for free.
We have informed traditional media as well, and the story of both our insurgents was presented several times in Prime Time (on the main news) of the most popular Polish TV channels each time reaching over 5 mln viewers. The story of Sosna and Kostek was also reported by all main daily newspapers.
“Mate From The Past. 1944 Live” realized by San Markos advertising agency was the first project in Poland capable of combining marketing strategy with modern historical education.
We used new technologies and growing popularity of social media to make the events of the past closer and more attractive to young people. We managed to involve them into the story of two fictitious insurgents and in this way teach them a lesson about the Warsaw Uprising.
Our heroes have soon become one of the most popular individuals on Polish Facebook. Together they had over 4000 friends, who commented their 800 posts, took part in 1512 hours of vivid discussions on the Uprising.
Among them, there were celebs, artists, journalists, and what is the most valuable to us – young people who “lived” our history. The honorable patronage of The President of Warsaw and millions of people who found out about Sosna and Kostek through reports and interviews on TV, radio, press and internet and almost 4000 people who experienced the death of one of their friends…
The whole project was realized with no budget as everybody who took part in it were working for free, both individual people and institutions without courtesy of whose, it would not have been possible to realize the project.
'Mate From The Past. 1944 Live' until now gained several awards in both all-Polish and international advertising contests, among them there are: main award in the Epica Award 2009 contest, Silver Drum at the Golden Drum 2009 advertising festival, Silver Spotlight Award 2009 and Honors in the Mercury Award 2009 – both contests organized in the motherland of Facebook – America, and several awards in Polish advertising and marketing contests, like Golden Eagles and Golden Paperclips.
More information about the project can be also found at matefromthepast.com
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