Dutch agency Lemz gained international recognition in the ad industry and beyond for its "Sweetie" project for child rights' group Terre des Hommes, a cyber Grand Prix winner at the Cannes Lions festival this year. To raise awareness of online predators, and pressure governments to act, the agency created a 3D avatar of a fake 10-year-old Filipino girl. In two months, the girl lured 1,000 predators from 71 countries online -- enabling the agency to capture their details and hand them over to Interpol.
Founded in 2000, Lemz specializes in creative work that's designed to benefit social good. The idea for "Sweetie" was born when co-founder Mr. Woerde spotted an article about online child exploitation in a Dutch newspaper, and called Terre des Hommes, which was quoted in the piece. He said he hopes the multiple awards for "Sweetie" will inspire other creatives to go down the "pro-social" advertising route.
What is your definition of creativity? How would you describe your creative process?
Mr. Woerde: Finding the real truth, letting it sink in, and then trust your intuition and experience to let the solution kick in.
What was the biggest challenge working on the Sweetie project -- and how did you overcome it?
Mr. Woerde: Sweetie's world is dark and unknown. It would have been prettier just to do an awareness campaign, but we challenged ourselves to find a solution to the problem. That required us to do months and months of research-- talking to experts, kids, analyzing legal texts. The simple solution we found is that police forces need to patrol the websites and chat rooms where webcam child sex tourism takes place. Until "Sweetie," police forces only took action when the crime was reported - and children in the Philippines can't go to the police.
What's your advice for anyone in a creative rut?
Mr. Woerde: Trust! Trust your creativity. it will never let you down. And you need a lot of trust when facing this type of problem.
Did you have any idea how successful the "Sweetie" project would be? Has industry fame changed you?
Mr. Woerde: We are extremely happy with the awards because they will stimulate other creatives to use their talent for good as well. It hasn't changed us really. We have been on the pro-social advertising route for many years now, although we realize that "Sweetie" is quite radical. But we feel that we are only halfway...our dream is to win the Nobel Prize for one of our brands some day. That would be something.
Is it easier to be creative on projects that are for social good? How do you bring that to the world of brands?
Woerde: It's somewhat easier, because their aim is already to tackle a social issue. For businesses, it's the way to go as well, because I know for a fact that it will grow the brand's business, but it requires a little bit more guts and creativity to find and tackle a huge societal problem from the core of the brands' business.