Last year saw the centenary of the Irish Rising, with politicians, public institutions, celebrities and brands contributing to a busy and animated national conversation. Each entity had a perspective, agenda or event to promote, leaving the public with the onerous task of navigating through the noise. An Post however had more right than most to ask the ear of Ireland, with their GPO: Witness History visitor centre offering people a chance to rediscover the Rising on the very spot where it started 100 years ago. But to drive ticket sales for the visitor centre, An Post had to cut through all the 1916 noise and peak the nations interest, without paid media support.
Also bearing witness 100 years ago were An Post’s postboxes, playing silent sentry to the conflict as it swept through Dublin. These humble pieces of street furniture became icons of independence in the years following the Rising, eventually painted green to symbolize Ireland’s freedom from British rule. And so, to promote the attributes of their definitive exhibition, An Post set about turning their humble 100+ year old postboxes into interactive storytelling beacons. 10 postboxes throughout the city were painted back to their original colour – British Royal Red – and stencilled with an invitation to ‘Witness History Now’, via a freetext code. Doing so would unlock a story that took place on that spot in 1916, recreated in CGI and sent straight to the user’s smartphone.
The red postboxes sparked a visceral reaction, with intrigue (and a degree of outrage) spreading across the city. Few could ignore the return of this symbolic colour to contemporary Dublin, and so many had their curiosity piqued to find out more. The curious were rewarded with lesser-known stories of the Rising that took place on the streets they walk every day, offering a taste of what the GPO: Witness History exhibition had to offer. Those in Ballsbridge could relive the Battle of Mount Street bridge, as saw through the eyes of a 17-year-old British soldier. Those by St. Stephen’s Green could learn about female sniper Margaret Skinnider, while visitors to Grafton Street could discover more about the looting that swept through the city. These stories were told via intimate-yet-cinematic first-person reconstructions that allowed the viewer to picture themselves at the centre of the story. The 10 stories can be viewed here – http://1916.anpost.ie/video-gallery/
After watching the stories, the now-engaged audience were invited to explore in more detail and, ultimately, prebook their place in the GPO Witness History visitor centre.
Via a carefully orchestrated combination of physical storytelling, inclusive deployment of technology, engaging video and an intuitive user experience, An Post successfully cut through the noise and engaged the public with fresh take on 1916. The initiative prompted 11.6m earned media impressions across TV, print and online, helping the exhibition sell out for 4 weeks either side of the Easter Weekend.