“Wardrobe Apartment” was a strategically deployed media idea that radically amplified the voice of the Society of Community Organisation (SoCO), a non-profit dedicated to enacting change for the inhumane housing situation for Hong Kong’s low-income earners.
The challenge was lack of public interest. Even though some 200,000 people live in unsanitary and unsafe subdivided units as small as 18 square feet [Sources: HKSAR Census & Statistics Department, 2016; SoCO Survey, 2009], there was severe apathy for the issue, from both the citizens and the government – the former distracted by the 23,300 other non-profits fighting for their attention [Source: InvestHK, 2012], and the latter motivated by public opinion. No matter what SoCO did, their message lacked reach or fell on deaf ears.
Everything changed with “Wardrobe Apartment”. Inspired by a common adage that Hong Kong apartments are so small you can hardly fit a wardrobe, we replicated the actual homes of cubicle apartment dwellers in standard sized 18 square foot wardrobes. We gave Hong Kong no room to ignore us by placing our wardrobe apartments in the busiest CBDs and challenging them to a game to drive interest. We supported our installations with a suite of carefully deployed communications – guerrilla posters and Airbnb posts, a photo-exhibition, Facebook group. The campaign attracted 17,400 on-site visitors [Source: SoCO], piqued the interest of 30+ local and international news outlets (surmounting to USD300,000 in earned media value [Source: media agency benchmarks]), and finally convinced Hong Kong’s Secretary of Housing to increase the supply of public housing in his 5-year plan.
By reframing the issue, SoCO managed to put Hong Kong’s long neglected housing situation for low-income earners on the top of the government’s agenda – achieving this with USD5000 in production budget and zero media spend.