Cannes Lions

Missing People - Making The Missing Unmissable

HOUSE 337, London / MISSING PEOPLE / 2023

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Demo Film
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In the UK, someone goes missing every 90 seconds. But people no longer take notice of ‘Missing’ posters, because they see so many of them, so frequently. At the same time, the design of ‘Missing’ posters has never fundamentally changed. That’s despite our understanding of human behaviour and the technology at our disposal coming on leaps and bounds in recent years. Our brief was to redesign ‘Missing’ posters to get people to take notice of them and in doing so make them more effective. We only had our hero media sites for one day, so we had to make as big a splash as possible in that time.


Our idea was to use behavioural science and modern technology to create the most effective missing poster ever made. We wanted to move the posters from being a passive, informative piece of comms, to being a tool that actively engages the audience to create a viral social media movement around the missing person campaign. We then wanted to use this revolutionary re-design to create a culture puncturing PR story that would boost the profile and perception of the charity.


Informed by our behavioural scientist partners we created a list of key design principles. People in research said missing posters can have “criminal connotations.” So, the first principal was to make the audience resonate with the human in the poster. In response, we used machine learning technology to enhance the photo provided by police (often poor quality). We then brought it to life by animating it using AI. It was the first time both technologies had been used in advertising.

The next principal was to simplify the messaging hierarchy to make it more engaging. In response we distinguished what information was needed to attract the audience and what information people needed once engaged. The engagement information was housed in a web page, connected by a QR code, leaving only key messaging. We then changed the word “Missing” to the more active “Help Find.” Finally, we researched several designs using eye tracking to refine a final product.

Another principal was to make the posters more contextually relevant to the audience. The background of the poster is geotagged and linked to a digital map to give the audience context to where the person was last seen. If there is an update, the map can change live.

Finally, we created an online design portal that enabled the charity to create and update the posters without a designer. This meant the posters could align with the development of a missing campaign. This system can export posters to any standard format, from A4 (for stores and local places) to Digital 96 formats.

We then launched the posters on integrational missing children’s day on large format screens, earning National and integrational press coverage generating over 300 news articles and according to Ocean Outdoor, generated over £1 Billion in earned media.


The project earned 300+ articles when launched and reached a wide range of press and media coverage both nationally and internationally. This Included prime-time reports by ITV and the BBC, including interviews with the family of Leah Croucher, one of the featured missing children. It also received featured coverage on CBS in the U.S. and was widely discussed on social media, mostly on Twitter where the majority of people perceived it as a positive innovation. Research by Ocean Outdoors said that overall, the project created over £1 Billion in earned media.

These far more effective posters are in the process of being rolled out by the charity across all sites as standard procedure and police forces have requested to adopt the system for their posters. The campaign further helped the brand to be to be perceived as one of the most innovative, hard-working and culturally relevant charities in the UK.

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