Responses by Mischa Schreuder, creative director and Lennard Freij, art director, Publicis Groupe

Background: The purpose of the project was to create awareness for Aquafresh White & Shine toothpaste in a way that was fitting for the brand. Aquafresh always wants to put a smile on people’s faces.

Reasoning: Due to a conflict where Dutch railway station NS didn’t correctly tender its public OOH advertisement spaces, the station was, by judicial decree, forbidden to use these spaces commercially. This resulted in over 5000 empty and white spaces at all NS stations. Via a guerrilla marketing activation, we used the empty billboards to create adverts for Aquafresh. By simply adding a White & Shine sticker to the billboards, we claimed the whiteness of the biggest train stations in a fun and smart way, putting a smile on the faces of many commuters.

Challenges: Time. In order to respond to the news event, we had to move fast, which put a lot of pressure on the project team. At some point, we nearly drove some people crazy by calling them over and over again. Another challenge was the production of the stickers. We had to make sure they would keep the white spaces clean and not leave any damaging residue.

Favorite details: We are proud of our client who dared to go guerrilla on such a sensitive topic. We also received big compliments from other agencies, creatives and clients. After all, nobody knew how Dutch railways NS would respond. It was a risk because NS could have taken charges against us. Luckily, the station did not penalize us, but only called us to take the stickers away and had a laugh about it as well.

Time constraints: Usually, lack of time and creativity don’t go together well. But, with these kinds of news events, you need to act fast or not act at all. So, everybody in the team pushed the envelope. Coming up with an idea is one thing, but to successfully execute it is another. Especially when you have to sticker over 1.500 empty billboards. That, as you may understand, is quite a bit of work.

Anything new: In a world that keeps moving faster, and where thousands of media impressions a day is becoming common, it proves harder for brands to generate a lasting impact. In this case, the golden rule of keeping an idea simple and straightforward applied. So, we just kept doing what we’ve always done: pushing and working until it is done and done correctly. And sometimes, you have to take a risk and act fast to hijack the news.