How a Dutch Agency’s Pop-Up Shop Helps the Homeless Find a Place to Sleep

The country banned sleeping outdoors unless it's for a special circumstance

Hjaltelin Stahl

There would seem to be no connection whatsoever between a geo-based online store selling random tchotchkes, a loophole in Denmark’s strident sleeping-in-public law and the Scandinavian country’s growing homeless population.

But here’s the link: a tabloid called Ekstra Bladet, which launched a program this winter to help ease the suffering (and prevent potential arrests) of homeless people by setting up virtual shops at physical locations and drawing crowds to wait for their grand openings.

The backstory: It’s illegal now, according to Danish law, for people to sleep in groups outdoors or set up what authorities would deem to be a “camp.” But if folks want to pitch a tent, so to speak, for a sale (concert tickets, sneaker drop, movie opening, new Apple product), that’s totally kosher.

So the socially-minded folks at the newspaper, with agency Hjaltelin Stahl, set up geo-based online stores and handed out tickets to homeless people so they could gather and wait together for the goods to go on sale.

As it turns out, those items did exist, but they were silly (like a cheesy pinup calendar that wasn’t exactly #MeToo friendly), and no one actually had to buy anything.

And as soon as one sale (or “sale”) was over, another started up again.

The web shops were the anchors of the project, called “Homeless Home Sale,” which debuted at several locations during some bitter cold periods in January. (Staying warm is one reason, along with safety, that homeless people stay in camps).

Kenneth Kaadtmann, the agency’s creative lead, says the program served as “a tool to avoid discrimination” for homeless people and “a conversation starter” for the community about the lopsided law.

Homelessness has increased by double digits in Denmark in recent years, according to advocacy groups, with a disproportionate number of 18-to-29-year-olds among those without permanent addresses. (Rents there, as in many metro areas in the U.S., have reportedly spiraled). The ad agency says there are about 6,000 homeless people in the country, though some activists estimate the real figure could be twice as high.

As for reaching this niche with a mobile-first campaign, Kaadtmann says smartphone usage is common among the homeless population, especially millennials and Gen Z (8,400 people used the “get in line” function during the “Homeless Home Sale”).

The agency also created posters, print ads and social media around the cause-related effort. And the paper embedded a journalist in the homeless population and ran an in-depth series based on her reporting.

The stunt checked the box on “get people talking.” There were 8.5 million media impressions, and positive mentions of Ekstra Bladet on Facebook increased 270 percent. Reaction was swift enough to prompt an upcoming re-do, with “stay tuned for summer sale,” now posted on the “Homeless Home Sale” site.

 

Credits


Creative Lead: Kenneth Kaadtmann
Copywriter: Jakob Lykke
Art Director: Katrine Moss
Art Director: Karl Kristian Krarup Kjær
Copywriter: Nina Markholt
Developer: Rasmus Bidstrup
Photographer: Judith Köthnig
Account Manager: Mette Pieper

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