PR the Dutch Way

Dutch people are known for always telling it like it is and for legalizing marijuana, prostitution and gay marriages. You’d think there is little else this liberal country can surprise the world with. And yet they did.

You might have heard about the Big Donor Show aired on Dutch TV last month. The idea of the programme (made by the TV channel which invented the Big Brother show) was in having three patients in need of a kidney transplant compete against each other. The final decision on who will get her kidney was made by a terminally ill woman who was shown throughout the program. TV viewers could sms their preferences (think of American Idol for patients).

Boy did that show create a stir! Dutch society was split over the morality of such show; the Prime Minister expressed concern, and some politicians suggested the show be banned. Holland made international headlines for the first time since I-don’t-know-when. I only realized how big the thing was when my granny told me over the phone “she heard there was something weird going on on TV in the Netherlands”.

Well, I didn’t watch the show, but many people did, although even more people claimed they would not watch it because it was unethical. The show made international headlines the next day again – this time with a different tone. It had all been a hoax, aimed at drawing attention to the very real problem of lack of organ donors and long waiting lines for transplants in the Netherlands. The potential donor was an actress, while the three patients were real patiens waiting for a kidney transplant. This was revealed live on TV at the moment when she was about to announce “the winner”.

Wow. The public was stunned. Beautiful execution of the stunt left critics speechless. Talk about putting a name to your cause! Now, there is still debate about how ethical the show was. So far over 20 thousand people downloaded a donor form as a direct result of the show. And there are more coming, so the officials say the real effect can only be estimated in about two months. But it is already clear that a very worthy cause was put high on the public agenda, urging thousands of people to take immediate action. I take my hat off to BNN.

2 Comments

Filed under Dutch Experiences, PR, Sustainability

2 responses to “PR the Dutch Way

  1. Came here through your linked in answer about the show. And yeah … its one of the best PR stunts I have heard of. And that too for a great cause. Hats off.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Shubham!

    I don’t have the statistics at hand, but I remember reading recently that the number of registered potential donors in the Netherlands grew significantly after the show. So it seems that the campaign did work!

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