Engine Creative has reinvented the missing person poster – re-thinking the standard design and introducing a high-impact live portrait – for UK charity Missing People to coincide with International Missing Children’s Day.

The striking, high-tech digital posters show a ‘live’ image of the missing person appearing to move their eyes, smile and make facial expressions. They feature three people, Leah Croucher, Finn Layland-Stratfield and Alexander Sloley, who are currently missing in the UK.

The innovative posters, which feature photography enhanced and animated by AI and machine learning, go live on Ocean’s digital outdoor screens in London on May 25th, International Missing Children’s Day.

The Engine initiative won second prize in the charity category of Ocean’s annual Digital Creative Competition, receiving £75,000 of free media.

A QR code is also incorporated into the poster, allowing people to share the poster quickly and easily on their social channels, to amplify the impact.

The creation of the posters was informed by behavioural science which 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.

Raising empathy among viewers of the missing person poster boosts their engagement with that poster and, in turn, the likelihood of them taking positive action to help, behavioural science shows.

Jo Youle, chief executive of Missing People commented: “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.

“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.”

Claire Croucher, mother of Leah Croucher, added: “Our daughter Leah was 19 when she went missing. One of the many challenges as a parent of a missing person is trying to communicate who you’ve lost. We feel that if the public were to understand who our daughter is, they are more likely to remember seeing or meeting her.

“Seeing Leah’s face move and smile on these amazing new posters is wonderful and gives us renewed hope that Leah – and other missing people like her – will be reunited with their families.”

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

Engine Creative has 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.

Steve Hawthorne, creative director at Engine commented: “Ever since ‘Missing’ posters were first created they have never really changed. 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 photos used on the posters were initially enhanced by Engine Creative in collaboration with Untold Studios using machine learning software, then animated using pioneering AI technology developed by D-ID, a world leader in AI-driven creative media, to bring the still images to life. A combination of GFPGAN Face Restoration and Gigapixel AI allowed the teams to greatly improve the sharpness of the photos.

Ocean head of marketing and events Helen Haines said: “The multi-layered strategy to help raise the profile of this charity and its work really made this winning idea stand out.”

The posters are appearing on Ocean’s high-tech DOOH screens at Westfield London, Canary Wharf and Westfield Stratford City.

Entries for the 2022 Digital Creative Competition open in July.