The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) works to provide relief to mine- affected areas. Because most people’s philanthropic efforts are filtered through the lens of their own experiences, UNMAS wanted to create a personal connection from people who could afford to donate to the dangers of landmines. It did this with an experiential activation called Sweeper, a virtual minefield that people could experience at the New Museum in New York City on the International Day of Mine Awareness and Action. Using iBeacons to create digital triggers, UNMAS allowed users to pass through a simulated minefield in order to create the desired connection and encourage donations.
Objective and Context:
Millions of people worldwide live with the threat of death and dismemberment due to landmines. These weapons cripple economies, destroy families, and prevent children from attending school. The United Nations Mine Action Service works tirelessly to provide relief to mine-affected areas through a combination of awareness efforts, mine detection, and removal. It believes that, with the right amount of funding and effort, the world can become mine-free.
UNMAS believed that raising awareness of the danger of landmines would help to raise funds because people are more inclined to donate when they understand and care about a cause. For most people, however, landmines are a conceptual fear. Non-profits and charities often appeal to people with images of suffering and need, so the United Nations Mine Action Service felt that if it used the same tactic its message would be lost.
Technology has brought people closer together in many ways, but it has also inundated them with information, and they have become desensitized to images of war and disaster. This causes what is called “compassion fatigue,” which was UNMAS’ key insight for the campaign.
Most people’s philanthropic efforts are filtered through the lens of how an issue affects them personally, so in order to combat compassion fatigue, UNMAS needed to help people feel a personal connection to the dangers of landmines. It would do this by bringing to them the experience of fear that millions live with every day.
Overall Campaign Execution:
UNMAS created Sweeper, a virtual minefield that was an immersive and fully integrated experience that culminated in an interactive event at the New Museum in New York City on the International Day of Mine Awareness and Action. The event featured speeches by prominent United Nations staff and images from the renowned photographer Marco Grob, who works tirelessly with UNMAS to document mine victims.
Within the space, UNMAS built a physical exhibition that displayed the remnants of war — actual mines pulled from the ground — but at the same time rig them with iBeacons to create digital triggers. The result was a simulated minefield that the audience would unknowingly pass through.
UNMAS utilized new technology to bring the experience of a real minefield directly to the people who could make a difference. It discovered the troubling and remarkable fact that iBeacons, the low-energy Bluetooth proximity technology, are triggered in a very similar way as landmines. When a user approaches, the iBeacon causes the user’s phone to perform some sort of action, usually a notification.
UNMAS was one of the first groups to receive an Apple iBeacon Technology Kit. The organization used it to create geo-fenced areas that delivered content triggered by motion. This was how it made the connection to landmines and the location-specific damage they can do. Using audience members’ phones, UNMAS knew it would be able to create a powerful simulation.
A two-sided experience was designed for the viewers’ phones that was downloaded upon entry to the exhibition. The first side was a pre-triggered digital mine and acted as a visual and audio guide through the exhibition space. The second side was an educational experience that was delivered “on trigger” of a mine. Users were then presented with a means to make a donation via text message.
One component UNMAS felt strongly about was the audio design, a piece that is often overlooked in experience design. It used an ambient sound that created mood and atmosphere appropriate to the exhibition. It also used a voiceover that helped document the impact of landmines. The application began with a speaker who introduced the tragic cost of landmines. As the tension built, the voice stated: “So go ahead, take your first step, and see how far you make it.”
The user would then step forward and start exploring the exhibit space, completely unaware of where the iBeacons were hidden. Then, when it was least expected, the user would trip an iBeacon and the sound of a loud explosion would rip through the headphones. The user, now startled, would hear a chilling message describing the type of bomb which had detonated and the devastating effects of the explosion. Users were then provided with an opportunity to donate directly to UNMAS to help prevent others from having to go through the real version of what they’d just virtually experienced.
With no paid media support and the budget constraints of a nonprofit, UNMAS used an exclusive social approach with the hashtag #NoMoreMines to lead up to the event. It introduced the Sweeper-style visuals and facts about landmines on the UN’s website. People responded and shared the content almost instantly. Over the next few weeks, UNMAS continued to slowly increase its message until it built up suspense and interest before sharing the time and location of the event. At that point, the activation had earned an interested and vocal audience who shared the message.
To date, Sweeper has garnered 450 million earned impressions. It received favorable attention in the press and brought in prestigious awards from the Cristal Festival, D&AD, and Mobius.
After the New Museum exhibition, UNMAS saw a 152 percent increase in donations over the previous year and a 250 percent increase in traffic to the UNMAS website. The piece was widely discussed on social media, with over 350 million impressions and over $2,500,000 of earned media. Additionally, Contagious wrote that the experience brought a level of emotion to technology that it had never seen before.