CASSIES Grand Prix: Missing Children Society’s next-gen milk carton

By getting permission to use people's social networks, the organization was able to get the word out about missing kids.

Also won Gold:
Off to a Good Start
Best Use of Media

Situation Analysis » Each year, more than 50,000 children go missing in Canada. At first, the police, media and community rally together to help, but this involvement eventually diminishes. The Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC) is the only Canadian organization committed to the investigation, search and rescue of children. Even when RCMP cases go cold, MCSC keeps working to reunite missing children with their families. However, getting support from the public and corporate Canada has been a challenge. MCSC has virtually no budget, and awareness efforts have been limited to photo and poster distributions, website postings and newsletters.

Strategy & Insight » Research showed that most people understand the first three hours after a child disappears are critical, but there’s not enough public response in this crucial window. Many think a child goes missing due to a crime (but it’s statistically not the case) and default to inaction once they assume the police are involved. What would it take to involve them?

Execution » The idea was inspired by the case of New York’s Etan Patz – the first missing child whose photo was displayed on a milk carton in 1979. The “Milk Carton 2.0″ campaign, at virtually no cost, is an array of web and mobile tools on various platforms. With an initiative called “The World’s Most Valuable Social Network” people donate their network (Facebook or Twitter) to MCSC. Then, when a child goes missing, an alert goes out to everyone in their networks. With “The World’s Most Valuable Search Engine,” Canadians on Google don’t see side-banner ads; they see active cases, successful rescues and tips for parents to keep their child safe. With “The World’s Most Valuable Pinboard,” special Pinterest boards allow authorities to share visuals like clothing or an abductor’s vehicle. Finally, with “The Most Valuable Check-in,” a new mobile tool sends notifications to Foursquare locations closest to where the abduction took place. The campaign launched on May 25, 2012 – International Missing Children’s Day – with key influencers pre-seeded to donate their networks and create buzz.

Results » In the first six months, seven children were found directly due to “Milk Carton 2.0.” Aided awareness 12 weeks post-launch jumped from 4% to 31%, online donations six months post-launch increased 15%, corporate sponsorship went up 27%, Facebook posts reached 70% of Canadians, and MCSC secured Amber Alert status in Ontario.

Cause & Effect » The case describes MCSC’s only activity during the period of the campaign, which was referenced in police reports and interviews as having a supporting or direct role in the cases of the seven found children.


Client: Missing Children Society of Canada
Executive director: Amanda Pick
Agency: Grey Canada
CCO: Patrick Scissons
AD: Todd Lawson, Yusong Zang
CW: James, Ansley, Marshneill Abraham, Dave Barber
Creative Technologists: John Breton, Toby Pilling, Daryl Brewer, Mark Brombacher
Digital Producer: Jay Gammy
VP, director of strategic planning: Malcolm McLean
Group account director: Patty Moher