How This Agency’s Holiday Gift Became a School Resource and Symbol of Hope

‘Peace Paper’ went from wrapping gifts to sparking conversations

A message of peace across the country. Outfront Media / Periscope

Like most agencies, Minneapolis-based agency Periscope was looking for a unique way to thank clients. The result was Peace Paper, a project where people were asked to create and submit a small drawing, illustrating their interpretation of peace. After a flood of submissions, the agency put the art on wrapping paper that was sent to clients in 2016.

But what happened next surprised the agency. People weren’t just wrapping gifts with the paper—the paper was hung in homes and schools as a symbol of unity and togetherness—and Periscope realized that there was a more significant opportunity to inspire a better world. To that end, other creative projects were created from the idea including an origami art installation and a giant coloring book mural at a rock music festival in Minneapolis.

“Advertising is for the optimist,” said Liz Ross, Periscope CEO. “Creativity can make things better, and for us, Peace Paper is the perfect demonstration of how creativity can make things better and create substantive, positive change.”

What started as a simple gesture has grown into an organic campaign for good that continues to grow in sophistication and now involves many stakeholders, most importantly, among the education community in the Minneapolis area. What the agency learned was the Peace Paper became a powerful way for kids to connect in the classroom. Not only did the paper transform local school spaces, but it also inspired deep conversations among students about peace, tolerance, diversity, inclusion and other topics like bullying.

From there, students showed a deep interest in sharing their own images of peace. Educators found that students suddenly were no longer at each others’ throats, and wild students were more engaged as they worked with Peace Paper. It was an “aha” moment that illustrated that creativity and conversation can coexist in profoundly positive ways.

“When you ask anyone to draw or visualize peace, no one does it with negativity—and Peace Paper has been a positive for the students,” said Peter Nicholson, Periscope’s CCO. “They’re not told that they have to be positive—it just has to be about peace, and it’s broken down barriers with the kids and opened the door to help them find they have things in common.”

Peace Paper has become such a hit that Periscope, in collaboration with Hopkins Public Schools, just west of Minneapolis, has developed educational kits around the project and will launch them on International Peace Day this Friday. Kits will be donated to schools and include Peace Paper, paper-making supplies and a unique K-12 curriculum designed to foster skills in areas such as communication, self-expression, diversity of thought, conflict resolution and more.

The kits have a special meaning in the district. Last winter, three students from Hopkins West Junior High School died (two from suicides) and Peace Paper, along with the educational program, will be used as a means of continuing to heal the community and allow students to discuss their feelings about the tragic turn of events productively. The school will be decorated in the paper and students will challenge a rival school to “show their peace” in a social media challenge that will be broadcast on Facebook Live and encourage others to share their messages of peace.

“Last year was a difficult year in our school,” said Leanne Kampfe, West Junior High principal. “As we move forward into a new school year, we are implementing additional ways to make our values more visible and ensure that school is a place where students can feel a sense of peace and acceptance. The message behind Peace Paper is perfect for our school.”

But it’s not just schools, or even their own geography, where Periscope is looking to amplify the message of peace. In a partnership with Outfront Media starting today, words of peace will hit billboards across the United States.

“We are excited to deliver messaging of positivity and kindness across the U.S., and know that these gorgeous designs on our billboards will resonate with many, especially on International Day of Peace,” said Jodi Senese, CMO of Outfront Media.

Running through International Day of Peace this Friday, the campaign includes bold messages of peace connected with images of Peace Paper and the program’s URL to drive awareness and interest.

100% of Peace Paper proceeds will go to fund peace education kits for schools.

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.