Lucas Alexander is lucky he didn't get punched in the nose by one or more of the fathers he met while filming this provocative public-service campaign for Danish nonprofit BØRNEfonden (Child & Youth Foundation.)
The actor recently rang doorbells in suburban Copenhagen, telling dads that he planned to marry their daughters. Alexander is 30 years old. The girls involved are all about 13.
The stunt was designed to draw attention to underage marriages in the West African nation of Mali, where 15 percent of girls are wed before the age of 15, often to adult men, due mainly to poverty and lack of education and economic opportunities.
"We are targeting people between 30 and 50, and we knew we had to create some content that would make it easy for them relate to the problem BØRNEfonden is trying to solve," Kim Boisen, strategist and CEO at agency Robert/Boisen & Like Minded, which developed the campaign, tells Adweek. "That is why we decided to create a filmed experiment in Denmark portraying the challenge 82 families in Mali face every day."
By turns amusing, thoughtful and creepy—though never too heavy or over-the-top—the film goes a long toward building understanding and empathy for the cause. (Contrast this approach with the agency's sexy/playful ads for Spies Travel.)
Some of those daddy double takes are priceless, and the dude with the salt-and-pepper beard looks like his head's about to explode.
"The fathers knew absolutely nothing, but the mothers did," says Robert/Boisen art director Niklas Hultquist. "Prior to the shoot, we found the girls through a casting agency. In that way, we could let Alexander rehearse with the girls and practice all scenarios that could occur, depending on their fathers' reactions."
On the day of the shoot, "it was crucial that the girls and mothers made sure that the unknowing fathers were home when Alexander knocked on their door," he says. "That turned out to be much harder than we thought, as the weather outside was great that day. Luckily, the mothers found smart ways to keep their husbands busy with household chores."
Also, considerable pains were taken to keep the crew out of sight.
"Our DOPs had to be extremely stealthy when moving in for the perfect shot, so we equipped them with full camouflage suits, sniper style," says Mads Mardahl, also an art director at the shop. "That way, they could 'invade' the front yard of the houses minutes before Alexander moved in. One of the DOPs, Frederik, actually managed to climb a tree just before Alexander knocked on the door, to get a better angle on the interaction."
Given the nature of the doorstep encounters, the agency chose a lead actor who could defend himself in case the situations got heated.
"One of the reasons we had arranged for the girls to be present when Alexander 'broke the news' was that we believed it would hold the fathers back from taking any psychical action," Mardahl says.
"Luckily, all the fathers reacted very maturely and somewhat collected. That also helped us when we were to have the fathers sign the participation contract afterwards. It might not have been that easy if they had just beat up Alexander beforehand. The closest we got to anything physical happening was in the end of the film where Agathe's father suddenly takes a step toward Alexander, and understandably enough, Alex is very quick to reveal that it's all a hoax."
BØRNEfonden is a Danish NGO that works to improve the living conditions for children and young people in the poorest countries in the world. The video asks viewers at the end to become sponsors of the organization.
Agency: Robert/Boisen & Like-minded, Denmark
Strategist: Kim Boisen
Creative Director: Heinrich Vejlgaard
Art Directors: Mads Mardahl, Niklas Hultquist
Account Manager: Sabina Langkilde
Film production: Gobsmack Productions
Producer: Christina Bostofte Erritzøe
Director: Niels Nørløv
DOP: Frederik Kastrupsen & Dan Aagaard
Editor: Frederik Kastrupsen & Thorbjørn Münter
Sound design: Bjørn Vidø/Freezone
VO: Sofie Gråbøl
Music: Upright Music
Nordic Account Manager: Rasmus Mikkelsen
Account Director: Mads Bech Larsen
Consultant: Ann-Marie Olsson