Netherlands Veterans Institute puts stories to music on EP ‘The Return’
As a nation, we owe a great deal to our veterans, who have played an important role in protecting and safeguarding our freedom. Veterans are those who served the Netherlands in theatres of war or in international operations, and who have since left the service. In order to help veterans make a smoother re-entry into society upon their return home, the Veterans Institute (VI) aims to promote public appreciation and gratitude for their service and sacrifices. The days leading up to the Day of Remembrance and Liberation Day on 4 and 5 May are the perfect occasion to make the public aware that returning home and being a part of the civilian community is not as easy as it sounds for ex-military personnel.
For the third year in a row, the Dutch Veterans Institute asked Glasnost to find an engaging way of communicating their message.
- Stimulate recognition and appreciation for veterans and their contribution to our freedom, especially on 4 and 5 May–the days that the Netherlands commemorates war and celebrates peace.
- Share veterans’ stories in a creative and engaging manner while illustrating the fact that veterans and freedom are inherently linked.
Appeal to a relatively young target audience of 18-35-year-olds.
Concept and strategy
All veterans have been deployed on missions abroad. These extreme experiences can have both positive and negative effects on military personnel. The VI aims to give young people insight into the complex world of veterans by sharing their stories. As music is a strong vehicle for conveying emotions, Glasnost suggested presenting a musical expression of these exceptional and sometimes distressing stories. A popular genre that appeals to the target audience is urban music: 80% of the most-streamed artists on Spotify in the Netherlands last year were Dutch rappers. Songs about the stories of veterans performed by these role models could elicit empathy from the target audience and establish a connection with them.
The idea was to have artists interpret their conversations with veterans into music. The differences and similarities that rappers and veterans experienced during those meetings added an extra dimension to the songs. As a result, the already strong message that the VI wished to communicate became even more impactful. The PR campaign revolved around making the public aware of the inspiring stories that veterans carry within them. For this reason, the campaign video calls on the Dutch to really converse with and listen to veterans. With exactly that in mind, the VI set up speed dating sessions with veterans on every one of the 14 Liberation Day festivals held in the Netherlands. Each festival offered the opportunity to speak to veterans with a variety of front line experiences.
Together with record company Cloud 9 Music, Glasnost selected four popular mainstream rappers: Snelle, F1rstman, Kempi and I Am Aisha. The Veterans Institute teamed up the artists with veterans who shared their experiences during and after deployment. With these inspiring and sometimes intense stories in mind, the rappers composed their songs. The whole process was recorded by Glasnost and short video clips from this footage were sent along with the press release about the extended play record (EP) De Terugkeer (‘Returning Home’). Cloud 9 Music was in charge of producing the 4-song EP, releasing the songs, pitching the numbers to DJ’s as well as producing the video for Snelle’s song Samen (‘Together’). Cloud 9 Music and Glasnost organised a private listening session for the veterans, the artists and selected media (national newspaper AD and FunX radio station). The selected media outlets published their own video items about the session. The songs were powerful and elicited a strong emotional response. The press release and the campaign video – which was shared on social media by the artists, the record company and the Veterans Institute – generated even more attention for the project. The EP was released on 19 April, during the run-up to 4 and 5 May.
The press release was widely picked up and the campaign, in combination with the interviews that were pitched, generated a significant amount of coverage. National news media, such as NOS Radio 1, Hart van Nederland and 3FM; music platforms such as Puna and Straightuphiphop; specialist media such as Marketingfacts and Adformatie, as well as TV show and YouTube channel #FIRST (catering to a young audience) covered the news and in effect spread the VI’s message. Positive reactions flooded the rappers’ social media and many veterans professed to being touched by their music. Rapper Snelle: ‘I have received tons and tons and tons of messages from veterans. And from their children. And their parents.’
A selection of comments by veterans on social media:
‘Beautiful song with gripping lyrics! Any veteran will be touched by the lyrics… Young or old, from any mission!’ – Niels
‘I hope I can obtain the song somehow. As a veteran, I am really touched. I hope it will become a number-one song. To me it already is.’ – Michel
‘Snelle profoundly touched me with this song. I too am a young veteran who has seen hell on earth several times over. Thanks for this one, Snelle!’ – Junny
Snelle’s song Samen was the absolute hero of the campaign. The song landed on the New Music Friday Spotify playlist and reached 500,000 views on YouTube within a week, placing it at #5 on YouTube’s Trending list. In the days following 5 May, the Spotify counter for the EP is at 1.4 million streams. The audience is very diverse in age, according to Spotify’s data. After hearing the song, Dutch veteran René says: ‘It touched me deeply because it describes the feeling of being lost when leaving active duty. Because you will never find such camaraderie again. That is something you only experience when you go through hell together. When you share the good, the bad and the ugly.’
On Liberation Day 2019, the songs came to life. At the 14 festivals throughout the country people of all ages had the opportunity to personally hear stories worth sharing from 76 veterans during ‘Speed dating with Veterans’. Snelle performed his song Samen at the festivals in the Dutch provinces of Overijssel and Groningen and F1rstman was at the festival in The Hague with his song Rijkdom (‘Riches’). Thousands of festival-goers listened to the music and heard the message that the Veterans Institute wanted to send. The total reach of online publications, regional TV, print and social media came to 26 million, with a PR value of over € 470,000.
- Henk Boersen Account Director
- Matthijs van Unen Consultant
- Tinka Snoeijs Account Executive
- Linh Vu Account Assistant