Campaign Expertise
  • Ann Maes
  • Managing Director
  • Brussels, Belgium

The group of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) commissioned Ogilvy PR to develop a campaign to raise awareness of civil liberties amongst European citizens. The objective was to make people think about the erosion of civil liberties that has occurred through the fight against terrorism and to reflect on the right balance between liberty and security.

Research shows that people do not clearly understand what their civil liberties entail and that they are either unaware or unconcerned that their liberties may have been sacrificed in the fight against terrorism. Part of the challenge, therefore, was to campaign on an issue that is not widely perceived to be a problem. A second challenge was the range of civil liberties that ALDE wanted to address: including freedom of speech, data protection, freedom from discrimination, transparency in European Union (EU) lawmaking and gay rights.

The key was to encourage people across the EU to think about their civil liberties and whether the balance between liberty and security has been lost in the post-9/11 world. The central tenet of the campaign was to re-establish the balance between liberty and security, placing the ALDE group as the frontrunners in the defence of civil liberties. But first, we needed to draw people’s attention to the fact that the balance had shifted.

After much discussion, Ogilvy PR decided to launch the campaign with a “manifesto” of words representing the essential liberties that had been lost following the attack on the twin towers on 9/11. The imagery needed to be respectful but impactful so as to strike the right balance. A printed poster, video clip and internet banner were all developed around a word picture of one of the twin towers – with the slogan “keeping the balance.”

A civil liberties logo and webpage (integrated in the ALDE Website) was designed in keeping with the campaign look and feel. Members of the ALDE group were encouraged to post videos on the site outlining heir support for civil liberties. Concurrently, a civil liberties blog was developed, launched by campaign leader Alexander Alvaro MEP using Facebook and Twitter to encourage civil liberties activitists and supporters to share content and ultimately build a European civil liberties movement.

In order to place a stake in the ground and give the civil liberties cause a life beyond the campaign, Ogilvy PR advised the ALDE group to establish a European Civil Liberties Day.

Journalists, non-governmental organizations and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were sent an invitation by e-mail alert, intended to be read on Blackberries and other personal devices, with a warning that the message may be read and recorded according to current data retention laws if routed via the US.

Security and liberty banners were designed as a balancing backdrop for the launch in the European Parliament, as well as a map of Europe on which those assembled were invited to place anti-fingerprint stickers. Visiting members of the The European Liberal Democrat and Reform (ELDR) party from across Europe and members of the public were invited to a symbolic release of ALDE civil liberties branded balloons outside the European Parliament, on behalf of all those who were not at liberty to support the campaign.

Campaign activation items were designed to make the campaign real and relevant to people’s lives. A powerful short film on freedom of speech and anti-discrimination was produced, based on the well-known anti-holocaust poem by Martin Niemoller

“First they came for.. ” The poem was also produced in the form of a fridge magnet, with topical subjects added to enable people to make their own modern day versions of the poem.

Plastic travel packs containing bottles labeled safe and unsafe and an explanation of the current illogical restrictions on liquids in hand baggage were distributed by MEPs at major European airports around the busy Easter holiday travel period in the week leading up to the launch.

The Civil Liberties campaign was launched at the European Parliament in Brussels on December 10, also the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The first European Civil Liberties Day was inaugurated on April 15 by ALDE President Graham Watson and the Slovenian Minister for Internal Affairs, in the presence of over 100 members of the ALDE group, other MEPs, journalists and NGOs that are working on the issues of data privacy, Roma rights, Gay and Lesbian rights, and freedom of the press.

In total, a selection of 400 journalists and 150 NGOs from all 27 EU Member States were informed about the campaign and invited to the European Civil Liberties Day.

A petition supporting an annual European Civil Liberties Day was launched on the blog. Currently, Czech journalists are publicising their campaign against restrictions on press freedom on the civil liberties blog. Over 23,000 contacts on Twitter have been registered, over 550 friends have joined the civil liberties cause on Facebook and the

ALDE civil liberties video against discrimination is provoking intense interest on YouTube with more than 1800 viewers.

We also contacted 50 influential bloggers on the theme of Civil Liberties to gain awareness for the campaign. On Facebook, Ogilvy PR promoted the Civil Liberties campaign towards the 25 most important groups on the topic. By posting messages, direct contact, becoming a ‘fan’, joining groups and posting the video, we were in contact with over 100,000 people that are interested in the topic of civil liberties.