The Uncensored Library

Brand: Reporters Without Borders Germany
Lead Agency: MediaMonks, DDB Germany
Award Level: Super REGGIE, Gold
Year: 2021
Categories: Purpose, Cause, or Charity Marketing

Campaign Summary

Reporters Without Borders needed a way to reach young people suffering under strict online censorship. Using the popular video game Minecraft, which is available even where media is blocked, the brand was able to disseminate censored articles by acclaimed journalists to people who otherwise wouldn't be able to see them. The pieces were republished, completely uncensored, as "Minecraft books" in the game, giving access to important news reporting to young people who otherwise wouldn't have had it.

 

Business Challenges and Campaign Objectives

Two years after its acclaimed campaign "The Uncensored Playlist," the German section of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) wanted to create a new campaign that not only actively fought censorship but connected with millions of young people growing up in oppressive countries with strict online censorship.

In order to breach strong firewalls and excite teenagers and young adults to engage in the topic of press freedom at the same time, the brand decided to meet them where they are: The world of online gaming.

Through the popular online game Minecraft, which has more than 126 million active players per month and is accessible even in countries with strict censorship, the brand was able to share important articles while subverting tactics of information suppression. Using the game's books feature as the key to share articles, Reporters Without Borders turned a video game into a tool to overcome censorship for the first time ever.

Insights and Strategy

Millions of young people growing up with online censorship are deprived of independent information. People in this age group are especially vulnerable to disinformation campaigns by authoritarian governments. Reporters Without Borders faced the challenge of overcoming strict censorship guidelines while at the same time, sharing important stories in a way that would excite young people and educate them about the importance of press freedom.

Reporters Without Borders believed that no matter where someone lives, it is critical that they understand the importance of press freedom.

In order to determine where it could have the largest impact, Reporters Without Borders compared the "World Press Freedom Index" with Google data that showed interest in Minecraft by country. Accordingly, journalists from countries with a poor press freedom rating but high interest in Minecraft were chosen and their censored work got republished.

Concept/Big Idea

Via Minecraft's books feature, Reporters Without Borders was able to turn a video game into a conduit for bypassing censorship. The program was dubbed "The Uncensored Library" and it featured censored articles from acclaimed independent journalists, published as Minecraft books, and available in English and their original language.

The brand even took the time to plan and build "The Uncensored Library" building within the world of the game, which took about eight months and required 12.5 million digital Lego-like blocks. The result was an impressive and fun gameplay experience that excited even the most-experienced players.

The library was designed to react to current affairs and thereby evolve. When governments tried to censor Covid-19 information — a new hallway was added, filled with banned articles about the true Covid-19 situation in ten different countries.

A campaign website told the whole story about the journalists and the project's background.

Key Tactics

In order to reach young gamers in oppressive countries with no access to the mainstream media, RSF needed to activate the well-connected Minecraft community to spread the word inside the game. To catch their attention, it really needed a bold use of Minecraft combined with a fun and exciting gameplay experience.

An organic social media campaign directly targeted the Minecraft community, who are constantly on the lookout for exciting new projects to talk about. It let them know that gamers now had the power to fight authoritarian governments and bypass state censorship simply by playing their favorite game.

Results

"The Uncensored Library" reached more than 20 million gamers from 165 countries, many of them suffering under censorship, who engaged with the project for a total play time of more than 15 years.

Big gaming influencers like CaptainSparklez talked about the project, and the gaming community made more than 400 YouTube videos about it.

But the library went well beyond the game. It resulted in more than 790 news articles, with a total media reach of 2.7 billion, all with a media budget of €0. Donations for Reporters Without Borders increased by 62 percent, helping them to extend their global fight for press freedom.

Source

"The Uncensored Library." 2021 REGGIE Awards Super REGGIE Winner; Gold Winner, Purpose, Cause, or Charity Marketing. Brand: Reporters Without Borders Germany. Lead Agencies: MediaMonks, DDB Germany.