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Making of:

On the set of the viral EOS films in Bucharest, Romania

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Receivables management is often perceived as a shady business. Time to change that: The EOS Group’s first viral campaign satirises debt collection clichés – and reaches an audience of millions.

Film 1: Completing an assignment

A gloomy parking garage, a mobile phone rings. The driver of the car anxiously speaks into the phone: ‘I’m here now’. ‘You know what you have to do’, a husky voice answers. ‘The family’s decided’. Is this the mafia in action? See for yourself.

Film 2: Survival of the fittest

Two suspicious-looking men sit on a park bench: ‘There are no rules here, there’s only the survival of the fittest’, one of them says. ‘Have you heard that from Tom’s guys?’, asks the other. The answer: ‘Yes, it’s bad’. But how nasty will the end really be?

Film 3: Setting an example

A dark cellar. A man is mixing concrete in a plastic tub. ‘You knew that the day would come. He’s coming for every one of you’. The man then grabs hold of a young boy and plunges his feet into the concrete. Will the boy be saved?

I never would have thought that a debt collection company could make me laugh’ and ‘Superbly made little films; playing with clichés turned out well’. These are only two of thousands of reactions of Facebook users to the first social media image campaign of a German debt collection company. Three short films counter common preconceptions about debt collection and refute them with great charm – for example, those about ruthless thugs and other Mafia-like methods.

In addition to these videos, the website the-debt-collectors-way.com is the focal point of the campaign. It provides facts on such matters as statutory principles and fees. It also illustrates how debt collection helps consumers by stabilising prices and protecting jobs. ‘By articulating the important contribution that professional receivables management makes to the business cycle, the EOS Group assumes responsibility for all the reputable aspects of the industry’, explains Lara Flemming, Head of Corporate Communications & Marketing of the EOS Group, who also is responsible for the campaign.

Why we need this campaignLara Flemming, Head of Corporate Communications & Marketing, talks about debt collection prejudices

Open dialogue, even with critics

Shortly after the campaign launched in February, the response already exceeded all expectations: Users had watched the films on YouTube and Facebook over two million times each. In addition, there were 13,000 interactions on Facebook, including more than 2,000 comments. Reports on the campaign in the press and on the radio reached more than 4.5 million readers and listeners. ‘We have achieved our objective of speaking with the public instead of always talking about each other’, says Ms Flemming.

In the course of all this, Facebook users’ discussions were definitely controversial. Because debt collection is a sensitive topic that also evokes defensive emotions. ‘It is precisely these critics whom we seek to engage in dialogue. This way we can accomplish long-term changes in thinking and encourage people to be more comfortable with speaking openly about debts and debt collection’, Ms Flemming explains. But it is likely to be some time before there is a fundamental change in public perception of the industry’s image. ‘Our goal is to continue to actively address misgivings – in our public relations work just as in our daily interactions with debtors’, says Ms Flemming.

Programmed for the future

Seeing things more clearly thanks to smartphones

In the future, smartphones could help us see things that we are unable to detect with the naked eye. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute, for example, have developed the prototype of an app that is able to identify the chemical property of an object. With the help of spectral analysis, it can reportedly detect such things as whether fruit and vegetables are organic produce or whether a used car has been repainted after an accident.