Sea-Watch e.V.
"LIFEBOAT- The Experiment"

Client: Sea-Watch e.V.
Product: Humanitarian Help
Title: LIFEBOAT- The Experiment
Media: Website (, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, OOH, Print, Cinema
Country: Global
Date Of Campaign: April 25th, 2019

Background: The refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea was a largely discussed topic in 2014. It separated Germany into two main groups: one pro-refugees and the rightwing party being absolutely against them.While the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean along the world’s deadliest border continuous, its media coverage decreased heavily. The topic simply lost its „news-value“ and with it Sea-watch’s vision and ongoing efforts fell silent. Language is revolution. If we were to turn the tide, the conversation must go on.

Idea: ObjectiveTo regain awareness and media coverage for the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean and rescue organization Sea-watch we invited journalists of Germanys biggest Newspaper and selected influencers to participate in a one of its kind simulation to experience only a fragment of what it really takes to cross the Mediterranean.Target AudienceWe explicitly “casted” the boats-crew to activate certain kind of people spread over a very diverse range: from young to old, from men to women, from famous to totally infamous, from rich to poor, from religious and without following any religion, from long-time professionals to students. The diversity helped us to generate a wide range of emotionally honest statements plus showed the different challenges spread over the participants including pain, sickness, helplessness, confusion, fear and panic. Those statements helped us in the long-format documentation to address certain target groups: the students where interested in how a student took the conditions and a retired person was impressed to see other older people to join our simulation. Our media-mix finally helped to reach out for explicit target groups plus the broader German society: we had Germanys biggest newspaper onboard – literally. A journalist joined the experiment and wrote a full page about her experiences. Individual posts in digital media reach out for younger people.Planning“LIFEBOAT - the Experiment” is a one of its kind PR-Stunt. To regain awareness and media coverage for the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean Sea and rescue organization Sea-watch we invited journalists of Germanys biggest Newspaper and selected influencers to participate in a simulation to experience only a fragment of what it really takes to cross the Mediterranean. Later they were confronted with the real stories to understand the bigger picture. By putting them literally onto this journey they were able to understand the importance and urge of our society to act. And of course, the importance to talk about it again. The campaign was hosted online and was accessable for everybody. In on- and offline mediatouchpoints so as Out-of-home billboards, printads, facebook- & Instagram postings plus the deepdive into certain sideinformations via youtube or Instagram-stories where very helpful. We wanted to reach out for everybody, therefore we used a wide range of channels.ExecutionTo make the refugee crisis a globally recognized problem again, we brought it closer; geographically and emotionally. Based on first hand experiences of five refugees who survived, we set up a simulation attempting to remodel all conditions of a real escape. Darkness, waves, stress, anxiety, uncertainty simulated in a wave-pool of a maritime training center in North Germany. In constant uncertainty, the participants experienced only a fraction of the strains of a real crossing. The psychological accompaniment of the entire experiment and the live direction of the Oscar-nominated director Sky Fitzgerald resulted in the experience report of a unique experience. Due to the immersive set construction, all participants were at the mercy of an abstract situation: the uncontrollable open sea. An elaborate light production extending to the horizon, fog machines and a situational-dramatic sound backdrop made many participants quickly forget place and time. Nine participants had to leave the simulation early. With the resulting documentation, the website and more than 1000 published articles, Sea-Watch e.V. triggered empathy and compassion in more than half a billion people and made the ongoing humanitarian crisis heard again.

Results: “LIFEBOAT – The Experiment” re-creates a momentum and stresses the fact that the ongoing refugee crisis is not a single countries problem, but one that concerns all of Europe. Executed in Germany we strived for an overall international impulse for the refugee crisis. Our first-time campaign is truly a first-ever since all reports clearly had second hand information yet talking about the circumstances on such an escape. We recreated a piece of such a journey under controlled circumstances and yet received to most important of all: valid, honest and true emotional statements of all participants. A source of information yet undiscovered – a twist of perspective. The campaign generated a mindshift in society by re-enabling access to the most human of our feelings: Empathy.More than just a simulation „LIFEBOAT - The Experiment“ is a game changer for a NGO reaching out for global awareness & regaining media coverage.The experiment instantly became world news. After being covered by all major German news-channels international press from China to Canada picked it up, reaching half a billion people, trippling traffic to website and increased Brand interaction by 310%. But most importantly, with +1100 articles published, we gave people who suffer a voice to be heard again. Facebook, Instagram and twitter made it a trending topic online sparking an ongoing dialogue. All without spending a single euro in media. Next time we’d love to have the same passionate setup for the execution. Since it is not a German-only problem we’d love to execute the same simulation in further European countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Greece, etc. to active local press & media, too.

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