The Milk Carton of the 21st Century: Reinventing how we find missing kids

Every year, there are over 400,000 reports of missing children in the United States. There are too many missing kids – too many stripped of their childhoods and facing issues like abuse, exploitation, sex trafficking, and abduction.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is an organization that leads the fight against many of these issues. They created the ubiquitous milk carton campaign, which brought the faces of missing children into American homes – always current, and always local.

In the late 1990s, NCMEC, Soul Asylum, and director Tony Kaye created the ground-breaking “Runaway Train” music video, which featured images of actual missing children in the United States. The video showed 36 missing children, and helped recover 21 of them.

If one manually updated music video could help recover 21 missing children 25 years ago, how many could we bring home if we used modern technology to update the video in real time?

For the 25th anniversary, we collaborated with Jamie N Commons, Skylar Grey, and Gallant to reimagine Soul Asylum’s hit song “Runaway Train”. But it’s more than just a cover song – the #RunawayTrain25 music video shows images of real missing children in your area. When people watch the film at, photos of missing kids from the NCMEC database are inserted to create a unique video based on the viewer’s location. Share the film with your social network, and they will see missing kids from their area.

Runaway Train is also one of the largest dynamic digital OOH campaigns of its kind in American history. Print advertisements in American Airlines in-flight magazines tell passengers what signs to look for to prevent sex trafficking. Donated media from Hulu, Vox Media, Twitter, and Reddit ensure that we can get more missing children in front of more people in more relevant places.

It's the milk carton for the age of social – always current, and always local. One of our most ambitious projects over 2 years in the making, we couldn’t have completed it without all of our partners who generously donated their time and effort to help bring home missing children.

NCMEC and M/H VCCP assembled the most innovative players from the music, media, entertainment and technology industries to make this possible. Collaborators on Runaway Train 25 include: Dave Pirner, Soul Asylum, Warner Chappell Music, KIDinaKORNER, Interscope, Runway Girls, artists Jamie N Commons, Skylar Grey, Gallant, director Jake Scott of RSA Films, MediaMonks, editors Amanda Perry and Andrea MacArthur of Bread and Butter Edit, Company 3, Method Studios, Lime Studios, Subtractive, Cisco, Twitter, No Friction, Powell Communications, Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA), Grand Visual, QDOT, Innovid, Reddit, Vox Media & Concert, Pandora, Vevo, and Hulu.

Watch the #RunawayTrain music video with missing kids in your area at