Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube campaigns are bringing social issues to where the public’s attention is focused, often with people feeling satisfied they’ve done their part with a tweet or “like” from the comfort of home. But much has been made of the value–or lack of value–inherent in social media activism. What if helping someone meant voluntarily giving up something real? Essentially, who really cares? That’s exactly what the Swedish Armed Forces set out to discover with a social experiment/recruiting stunt created by agency DDB Stockholm in partnership with digital production company B-Reel.
To prove that helping a fellow soldier requires physical action beyond social media, a small enclosed room was placed in central Stockholm in early March containing a man who agreed to sit inside and wait–the rule being he couldn’t leave until someone came to replace him. Print and digital ads accompanied the stunt to explain that liberation for one meant the sacrifice of another. There was even a live stream of the one-chair room with nothing for viewers to do but watch. Though the site purposefully omitted social media prompts, it reached 100,000 visitors in only 4 days with the campaign as a whole sparking massive online conversation.
And as it turned out, people really do care.
Over the course of 89 hours, 74 people surrendered their freedom for total strangers, including some who traveled from all over Sweden to participate. All in all, the Swedish Armed Forces more than doubled its target number for applications, but also proved that a generation so ready to help remotely via social media is actually willing to do far more even at their personal expense (or maybe they just wanted to be part of a case study video that was going to end up on YouTube. Either way: mission accomplished).