Grey Brazil Asks Politicians to Hand Over the Miles They’ve Racked Up on Taxpayers’ Dime

Initiative encourages elected officials to give back airline miles that citizens have rightfully earned

'Miles for the People' calls out corrupt politicians in Brazil. Grey Brazil
Headshot of Minda Smiley

Each week, taxpayer money is spent shuffling hundreds of Brazilian politicians back and forth between their hometowns and the country’s federal capital. Just imagine how many airline miles they rack up.

Are these taxpayers compensated for said miles or rewarded in any way? Nope. While this isn’t technically illegal, it’s not a great look in a country where people struggle to purchase flights for crucial things like health treatments and education opportunities.

In partnership with Reclame Aqui, Brazil’s leading consumer protection organization, Grey Brazil recently found a way to get some of these miles back into the hands of those who actually earned them.

Via a platform called “Miles for the People,” the agency tracked the flight expenses of elected officials and converted them into airline miles. Grey Brazil then put this information into a mobile portal that Brazilians could use to request air miles from politicians by inputting their desired flight and reason for travel.

This is how it works: When an official reveals how many miles they’ve accumulated, this information is then crossed with a list of Brazilians who’ve submitted requests for travel. The system matches politicians with travelers depending on how many miles are needed for the trip. Once a match has been made, a ticket is sent to the traveler, who gets a notification on their phone. In cases where there are multiple matches, decisions are based on urgency (i.e. someone who needs to travel for a health reasons would likely take precedence over somebody traveling for a tournament).

According to the agency, the effort initially yielded no results, as politicians refused to gift back their miles. But after facing pressure on social media from the public (and receiving loads of coverage from news outlets), the initiative began to take off and made it to the congressional floor, where deputies Rose Modesto and Rosana Valle pressured their colleagues to engage in the project.

So far, more than 20 politicians have used the platform to make their miles available to those who need them. What’s more, the effort has even spurred the advent of a new bill that will prohibit the use of air miles coming from public funds for personal usage.

Adriano Matos, chief creative officer at Grey Brazi, is pinning the project’s nascent success on the new class of politicians who were ushered into during the country’s most recent elections.

“In 2018, corruption was the most important issue in the Brazilian elections. By 2019, Congress has been renewed and new politicians have been heavily charged by the media to use public money responsibly,” said Matos. “This context made the project Miles for the People spread rapidly, taking the country’s agenda and forcing a change in the law.”

Last year, Grey Brazil won a Grand Prix in the mobile category at Cannes Lions for another project it created for Reclame Aqui. Via an app called the Corruption Detector, Brazilians could take photos of politicians in public or in the media. Using facial recognition technology, the app then scrubbed databases of official corruption previously hidden in hundreds of courts.


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@Minda_Smiley minda.smiley@adweek.com Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.
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