U.K. Pokemon Face Deportation in Copywriter’s Guerrilla Poster Campaign for Immigrants

Effort asks government to clarify post-Brexit policy

From Piccadilly Circus to Westminster, London landmarks have recently been ambushed with a flier campaign calling for the deportation of illegal … Pokemon.

The campaign is the work of creatives who have blanketed the city with a series of posters using the world's hottest mobile game to make a point about the recent Brexit vote and the effects it may have on Great Britain's immigrant population—many of whom stand to lose some of the freedoms afforded to European Union residents.

"The UK is our gym," notes one flier. "Just because your Pokemon is here doesn't mean it can stay. Illegal Pokemon WILL be deported. To anonymously make a report, visit www.pokemon-go-home.com."

"We're catching them all," noted another one of the fliers, which quickly generated some online discussion.

The stunt has earned coverage in publications ranging from British tabloid Evening Standard to tech blog Mashable and the Russian state news service Sputnik. Most observers seemed to get the connection between two of the U.K.'s hottest news items even if they didn't visit the campaign website or sign a petition demanding that the British government ensure that European Union nationals can stay in the country with the same basic rights after the split becomes final.

British Copywriter David Felton tells AdFreak that he came up with the idea while talking to a Portugese art director who confessed that he is "genuinely worried and concerned about this future post-Brexit."

"It struck me as being profoundly unfair," Felton said. "I'd also been thinking a lot about Pokemon Go, and so I decided to run a campaign to raise awareness by bringing these two unrelated things together and attempting to hijack that buzz in a novel way."

Felton said his intentions and those of collaborators Steve Sinyard (a U.K.-based graphic designer) and Evan Brown (a creative director in Los Angeles) are not explicitly political. "Whatever my personal opinion is, the political reality is that if we leave Europe it's going to affect lives, many in far-reaching and detrimental ways. For those attempting to settle down, with jobs and families, being told you may have to leave becomes another psychological burden."

The copywriter knew he couldn't make it happen on his own, so he perused @OneMinuteBriefs, a U.K.-based social media project that challenges creatives to come up with ad concepts in one minute or less. In the process he met Sinyard, who "got it straight away and was interested to collaborate on the work together." Felton says, "We also had help from a friend of mine, Evan Brown, an experienced Creative Director based in Los Angeles who oversaw and managed the project."

Since printing and laminating the posters, he has placed more than 100 in various locations around London. This campaign isn't the first use of the #PokemonGoHome hashtag, but may well be the most creative.

The petition currently has nearly 5,000 signatures, or approximately half the number required to guarantee a response from the government. Felton, who describes the project's budget as "zero," said the fliers don't have much staying power in real life, though at least they live on online. "I put up posters right outside Parliament," he said, "and 24 hours later they haven't been taken down." 

He adds that he hopes the project gets more attention, "because however anyone feels about Brexit, I think we can all agree that people are just as important as Pokemon."

More posters should appear in London throughout the week. British Pokemon Go players, meanwhile, show no signs of slowing down.