Engine Creative re-invents the Missing Person poster

By using AI to make a ‘live’ image, the posters aim to raise engagement and increase the likelihood of finding missing people across the UK.

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


To coincide with International Missing Children’s Day Engine Creative reinvented the missing person poster to support UK charity Missing People.

High-tech digital posters were created to feature a ‘live’ image of a missing person, with moving eyes, smiles and dynamic facial expressions. The posters are  live on Ocean Outdoor digital outdoor screens in London and featured three people who are currently missing across the UK; Leah Croucher, Finn Layland-Stratfield and Alexander Sloley.

Each poster was designed to create a greater level of connection with audiences by using technology and featuring photography enhanced and animated by AI and machine learning. A QR code was also incorporated into the poster, allowing people to share the poster quickly and easily on their social channels, to amplify the impact. 

“70,000 children and young people are reported missing every year in the UK, and many more go unreported. Missing People is there for anyone affected, every day of the year.” explained Jo Youle, Chief Executive of Missing People. “When it is appropriate to publicise someone’s disappearance, our appeals are a hugely important way to reach the public, to help find children. By embracing innovation, we hope the new appeals will have an even greater impact and lead to those featured being found safely. We are proud to bring the public, the media and business together to make a unique difference to people affected in communities across the UK.”

Behavioural science shows that people’s engagement with and memory of an image is enhanced by a larger and better resolution photo; a live image instead of a static one, a smiling face instead of a non-smiling one and less accompanying information. The images used were created according to this theory to raise empathy among viewers, boost engagement with each poster and, in turn, increase the likelihood of passers by taking positive action to help.

Engine worked with behavioural science experts at Influence Work, a team led by CEO Steve Martin and Anita Braga which led to enhancements including replacing the standard ‘Missing Person’ headline with the more action-oriented ‘Help Find’. 

Engine Creative has also created a simple online tool that Missing People can now use to automatically create a live portrait poster when someone goes missing with just a few clicks. 

“Ever since ‘Missing’ posters were first created they have never really changed.” explained Steve Hawthorne, Creative Director at Engine, “Whether it’s a person or a pet the basic formula has always remained the same. But in that time our understanding of people and the technology at our disposal have moved on. So we wanted to take a fresh look at ‘Missing’ posters to see how we could make them more effective. With help from an array of incredible partners we hope that we have done exactly that.”

The initiative won second prize in the charity category of Ocean Outdoor’s annual Digital Creative Competition, receiving £75,000 of free media. Posters will appear on Ocean Outdoor’s high-tech DOOH screens at Westfield London, Canary Wharf and Westfield Stratford City, with media donated as part of the Digital Creative competition.

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