The advertising agency JWT Amsterdam launched a campaign with mannequins to raise money for the homeless and also to raise awareness regarding the people without a roof. The creative agency dressed up the mannequins in shabby clothes and “installed a cut-out money slot in the head” meant to resemble a piggy bank and the passers-by are invited to make donations for a local foundation.
Even though they are perhaps the most obvious embodiment of the human tragedy, the homeless are often disregarded. Therefore, the advertising agency thought about raising awareness on them, by putting mannequins in several places from the capital of Holland – some of them are sleeping on benches, some others are under bridges, all of them having cardboards asking the passers-by to give them money.
By using mannequins, the embarrassment some people might have when they want to be generous with the homeless is avoided. For some it can be much easier just to insert a coin in a slot than to have to interact directly with the “oppressed” citizens. The money collected in this way will go to the local foundation, BADT, which helps the homeless. The experiment proved that people are not at all scared by the mannequins looking like dead bodies with holes in their heads.
A similar idea had the artist Daniel Knorr in 1999 who placed on the streets of Bern, the capital of Switzerland a “beggar robot” with a metallic dog. It had a big, red nose and if one pushed it, the head would open and the robot would say: “Hey, you look cool, but don’t you have an euro for me?”
The project with the homeless mannequins was successful, people becoming interested in it. It “took less than a week to make and came in at under €100… We wanted to bring more people face-to-face with the different faces of homelessness- the mothers, the families, the children,” said Robert Harrison, JWT Amsterdam designer. He added that the problem of homeless is a “life problem” in their city so it is important to underline it accordingly. “Our aim was to enable people to look at it in a different way, identify with the situation and feel compelled to take action by donating to BADT.”