We provoked Budapest Pride to garner support for the prosecuted LGBTQI couples of Hungary by partnering with 42 of Budapest’s most popular restaurants, creating a national movement for just €2,600.
In Hungary homosexuality has been conflated with pedophilia by law since 2021; it is illegal to discuss homosexuality in schools, and for under-18s to watch TV featuring LGBTQI people.
Budapest Pride aimed to bring awareness to the plight of Hungarian LGBTQI people and highlight how discriminatory these laws are.
Although the acceptance of homosexual couples in society is increasing, the archaic anti-homosexuality laws of Hungary have a serious impact on the lives of LGBTQI people.
In 2021, Háttér Society’s legal aid service – a leading NGO representing LGBTQI people in Hungary – received 25% more calls for help over 2020. According to research by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights on the LGBTQI community, 72% surveyed said they always or often avoid being seen holding hands with their same-sex partner for fear of being assaulted or threatened, and 25% had experienced discrimination in a hospitality setting (e.g. in a restaurant).
There are thousands of LGBTQI couples in Hungary today who dare not to celebrate Valentine’s Day in public.
This is why Budapest Pride and Háttér Society actualised the ‘Empty Tables’ campaign. What began as ‘only’ a powerful gesture, ended as a multi-brand collaboration, which then turned into a nationwide movement in just one day.
On Valentine’s Day, 42 fully booked local restaurants left a table empty with a rainbow-coloured candle and a standee on it to show their support for LGBTQI couples who did not dare to dine in public.
Restaurants assured couples they would be welcome to dine there anytime. Once each establishment shared pictures of their empty tables, national influencers began posting about the campaign and its accompanying hashtag. People from across Hungary joined the protest against discrimination and bravely shared it online.
Our aim was to create a symbol (the Empty Table) that dramatises the harsh reality of LGBTQI couples and directly communicates with everyone on Valentine’s Day. We partnered with the best and busiest restaurants in Hungary, and it was no surprise influencers joined the campaign, as well as independent press.
Primarily we aimed to sensitise those who are receptive to the topic but have not encountered the phenomenon, due to the government-controlled media censorship. The younger demographic was more receptive to this topic and because we engaged with them effectively in their native environment, we were able to influence their parents’ generation and start a conversation.
Despite Valentine’s Day being many establishments busiest and most-booked day, we convinced the best and most famous 42 restaurants across Hungary to stand up for the cause and leave a table empty with our message on top of it.
After the participating restaurants shared their statements on social media and assured LGBTQI people that they are always welcome in their venues, not just on Valentine’s Day, the campaign was amplified within hours by 52 of the country’s biggest influencers. Alongside this, the activation was covered in a series of articles by all the independent media that very evening.
As for the success of the campaign and from zero media spend, the estimated earned media was in excess of €245,000.
With our earned media support, we reached 6.1 million Hungarian unique users – which equals the number of the country’s adult population – within 48 hours. On top of this, the only remaining independent TV channel, RTL Klub, also joined the campaign and produced an exclusive TV program on the campaign.
The retargeting display campaign reached 44% of the country’s adult population, with an above average viewability of 82+%. Thanks to our retargeting, the Budapest Pride site had 2,875% more visitors in February than in the month prior.
In total, the campaign cost us a few phone calls, 42 candles, and the cost of printing the standees. €500 in total. The press and influencers were not paid, and everyone joined voluntarily and free of charge.
The total budget, including agency work, was €2,600. With no media spend, our earned media was approximately €245,000 – a staggering 79:1 ROI.