Canon of the Netherlands

The Canon of the Netherlands includes the 50 most important people, objects and events that together tell the story of the historical and cultural development of the Netherlands.

What did we want to unlock? | Unlocking full potential

The Canon of the Netherlands includes the 50 most important people, objects and events that together tell the story of the historical and cultural development of the Netherlands. The Canon of the Netherlands plays a central role in secondary education.

The Canon of the Netherlands was dusted down and given a makeover. New people, objects and events were included. The question posed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, in collaboration with the Open Air Museum, was therefore: how do we ensure that 17- and 18-year-old secondary school students also hear the new stories from the Canon?

Our ambition was to really inspire the target group and make them think.

What was our typical Matter approach? | Data & tech meets creativity

We didn’t just want to reach the target group with the stories from the Canon. Our ambition was to really inspire them and make them think. This made it essential to thoroughly understand what is on their minds.

In collaboration with youth specialist YoungWorks, we conducted a qualitative youth survey. In the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, this meant numerous Zoom conversations 1-on-1 with young people, and in groups.

We developed the central concept from the insights obtained, combined with other target group research. We then tested this concept again with the target group before the production phase. We started producing and rolling out the campaign based on concrete target group insights and with young people who refined the concept.

What did we discover? | Data & tech meets creativity

Many insights emerged from the conversations with young people, but one thing stood out: young people find history lessons basically boring, because they have the experience at school with teachers and teaching material that they often find uninspiring or relevant.

What they do find interesting about history are the life lessons that can help them. They are in a phase of life in which they are discovering and develop ingthemselves.

How inspiring is it for a 17-year-old to hear about Aletta Jacobs who wrote a letter to Minister Thorbecke in order to be admitted to university, thereby becoming the first female medical student in the Netherlands at the age of 17?

What was our solution? | Content solutions

History is full of life lessons that young people can use in their search for identity. Shame on us, if we don’t let them learn from history!

Central idea: Wake up! Learn from the past and face your future.

We translated history lessons into life lessons for young people in short, powerful and shareable statements. In this way, history becomes relevant in their search for their own identity. Life lessons they can use to become who they want to be.

We did this together with teachers of today: the influential role models Isadee, Bokoesam and Latifah. These influencers shared the lessons they themselves learned from history. With three different main themes that are now more relevant than ever: perfectionism, racism and feminism.

We kicked off the campaign with a Beyoncé-worthy video, and looked into three beautiful short docs with the life lessons of the role models.

Shortdoc 1, life lesson ‘Women can do everything’, canon theme: ‘Aletta Jacobs’.
Shortdoc 2, life lesson ‘Being yourself is perfect enough’, canon theme: ‘Vincent van Gogh’.
Shortdoc 3, life lesson ‘Learn and respect’, canon theme: ‘Anton de Kom’.

In addition, each of the 50 topics from the Canon of the Netherlands was featured on an Instagram page. We did this with a colourful and dynamic post, in which we shared social first life lessons from history.

A few examples: 


Other examples:

Instagram post 2.
Instagram post 3.
Instagram post 4.

And we went beyond social. Together with artist and influencer Hedy Tjin, we made four murals with statement life lessons spread throughout the Netherlands. 


Instagram post 6.
Instagram post 7.
Instagrampost 8.


This street art was not only very tangible, but also did very well on social. With an engagement rate of over 28% on the content surrounding the street art, this turned out to hit the bull’s eye. 

Media approach 

We were not only responsible for the strategy, creation and production of the campaign, but also for the deployment and optimization of digital media. 

The aim of the campaign was to have maximum impact on 17- and 18-year-olds. A number of principles were central to our approach: 

  • Maximize audience reach for maximum visibility
  • Optimize multiple contacts in the campaign period for impact and recognizability
  • Set up sequential targeting, to include the target group in several successive stories in the campaign.

In order not to spend too much of the budget, we have invested in Instagram and YouTube. Two channels where the target group can be easily reached at low costs and where we can set up good sequential targeting.

Cijfers liegen niet! | Data 

Het doel was om de doelgroep van +/- 400.000 jongeren maximaal te bereiken met voldoende betrokkenheid bij de onderwerpen uit de Canon van Nederland. Daar zijn we duidelijk in geslaagd.

We realiseerden een getarget uniek bereik van ruim 450.000 mensen en behaalden ruim 16.000.000 views. Tijdens de campagne optimaliseerden we continu, waardoor de CPM-prijzen met bijna 50% daalden.

Op YouTube behaalden we een gemiddelde view rate van 89% op de kick-off video’s en short docs. Gemiddeld haalden we een engagement rate van 8%, wat bijna 2x hoger is dan een reguliere sociale campagne. We hadden zelfs uitschieters van 25% engagement op bepaalde content.

Last but not least kregen we niets dan positieve feedback van de volgers van onze rolmodellen over hun levenslessen en hun deelname aan de campagne.