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How These Agencies Invited the World to Feel What Ukrainians Feel

Behind the Work 484 Add to collection

LBB’s Ben Conway speaks to TANK Worldwide, Rodeo FX and charity Razom about the ‘Feel What We Feel’ campaign, raising awareness and funds for Ukrainians by showing what war would look like in your cities

How These Agencies Invited the World to Feel What Ukrainians Feel

On March 15th, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Canadian parliament. He asked them to imagine what it would be like if major Canadian cities were under attack, saying, “I would like you to feel this: what we feel every day.” For most people, it’s almost impossible to truly imagine war at home or to feel what the Ukrainian people are feeling. So, coming together to increase empathy and drive donations to support the Ukrainian people, TANK Worldwide, Grey Canada, Rodeo FX and the charity Razom helped Canadians and Americans empathise by showing them what a war-torn Toronto, Montreal and New York would look like.

Since being founded in 2014, Razom has had an emergency response project in place for crisis situations in Ukraine. And after reports of Russian troops massing on the border began circulating in February, the charity started promoting the emergency fund again and engaged its infrastructure to take action.

Kamila Orlova, Razom donations coordinator says, “We happened to find ourselves in a unique position. As Russia is attacking with this unworldly brutality, we have seen a tremendous degree of solidarity and support. People started coming to us - proposing their assistance and help in various capacities, production companies included. We have seen a number of agencies turning to us with proposals of giving us platforms to amplify voices of Ukrainian people that are sounding now and that have been sounding all along. We cannot express it enough but we are infinitely grateful that our inboxes are filled with proposals from production companies, agencies, institutions, and individuals offering more new tools and platforms to help us with our campaigns and advocacy work.”

Together with TANK, Grey Canada and Rodeo FX, Razom launched an OOH campaign with QR codes that linked to the campaign’s landing page. The site displays three images of iconic landmarks in the aforementioned cities with a slider that allows viewers to switch between real-life and the imagined ‘warzone’ versions of the images. On the site and through social and influencer posts, links and icons allow for easy donating - with 100% of proceeds going directly to Razom.

Jillian Mastroianni, chief marketing officer at TANK Worldwide says, “At TANK and Grey Canada, we believe we have a responsibility and a duty as creative agencies to use our voices and talent to help positively impact human lives and play an active role in society.” After Russia invaded, the agencies repurposed their Townhall meeting to discuss how they could help - with several employees sharing details about their families being directly affected in Ukraine. Jillian continues, “We used our talent and our platform to create a campaign that we hope would further amplify and restart the conversation, as well as drive donations as the war rages on. We reached out to Razom as a partner as they were passionate, hyperactive and moving mountains to deliver aid and critical technology to the Ukrainian people. They have been an incredible partner and we just thank and admire them for the tireless work that they put in each and every day.”

From conception to realisation, the project took six weeks, an impressively quick turnaround thanks to all the collaborating partners “who knew what was at stake”, in addition to the agencies and Rodeo FX: WPP’s Group M Canada and Hill+Knowlton Canada and media vendors including Astral, Bell and Rogers.

When initially conceptualising the campaign, TANK recognised the shock that the edited images would elicit, deciding on a website which allowed the shocking comparisons to be made, where - with a slide of a finger - “worlds were turned upside down.” For Razom’s Kamila Orvola it is this prompting of the audience’s imagination that is the “enabler of compassion and solidarity” which lies at the heart of the campaign.

“This magic-like ability of humans to picture that which is not immediate to one's surrounding reality is a tool we need to turn to at all times. It is particularly our responsibility to do so when people's lives are to be won or lost. This is what anyone advocating to protect the people in life-threatening situations is appealing to - to picture that an atrocity which is happening in a foreign language, on a distant land, to people one has not seen, is actually part of one’s reality - no matter where we are in this world.” She continues, “To walk down the street of one's home city and see buildings blow up before your eyes from Russian missiles, to run towards the house just to fund it collapsed from a Russian bomb, to imagine one’s universe shatter. To imagine all this wrong and do something to stop it from happening - this is what we believe we will be able to achieve when we invite people to see what it is like to see what Ukrainians’ are going through.”

To create the shocking images, TANK approached their Montreal neighbours Rodeo FX, who put both their Canadian and Los Angeles teams to work on the project. TANK selected three images, including one of the CN Tower - a landmark mentioned by the Ukrainian president in his address to Canada. Also wanting to highlight the Quebec market - with assets being produced in English and French - and the US audience, Jillian says, “We knew the Montreal Olympic stadium was also an iconic and globally recognised monument. Our teams and Razom also sit in New York, and we knew if we wanted to get people’s attention and drive awareness, to rally people for this cause, we had to highlight New York City.”

Rodeo FX’s head of art department in LA, and a digital matte painter and concept artist himself, Deak Ferrand worked on the Toronto CN Tower image and turned the image around in just three days. He explains that he tried to capture the emotion he felt hearing president Zelensky’s speech in the image, “I felt very emotional, the suffering that the Ukrainian people are going through right now is heartbreaking, and every time I look at the news, I am hit by the amount of human suffering they are going through and that they are still able to retain a sense of dignity and unity.”

TANK selected the image to use, which he says was perfect and allowed for “visceral and personal” close-up features, before using a 2D digital matte painting workflow to craft the final image. “First thing I did was to desaturate the plate using a few Ukraine photos as references to really understand where to retain some colours and where to go to almost total desaturation. Because of the richness of details that we would have on the ground, the sky had to be very dull and simple so as not to overwhelm the image. Then I spent hours researching specific items that would show a panoply of features that are specific to war-torn narratives. Barricades, tanks, hedgehogs, abandoned bicycles, Canadian military vehicles and various images of destroyed buildings and roads. But the most important thing was the little girl and her mother. I chose a stock photo that I highly modified to get the feeling I wanted. Once I positioned them in the frame, everything else was added to help the composition so your eyes would be drawn to them.”

Out of respect, he didn’t use photos of Ukraine but did avoid CG or manufactured references when creating the image for authenticity and impact. “We really needed to show a city at war, not torn down by natural disasters, but by the evil of man - by relentless bombing, fires and skirmishes. I wanted to show how miserable the people of Toronto would feel walking in such a desperate landscape. Everything in the image is supported by the little girl and her mother walking under the ruins of the screen right building. The mother is carrying her little girl’s teddy bear, the last remnant of a gentler time. I needed an emotional connection to them, the father missing, at war. Where are they going? Do they still have a place to stay? The non-stop anguish and sadness.”

As well as serving as a refresher for his rusty matte painting skills, the hardest challenge Deak faced was creating a realistic image without “beautifying the horror of war” by making it look like a movie or game. He says, “The goal was to get you to have an emotional reaction to the image, to feel how this could impact your life if you were living under the same circumstances as the Ukrainian people.” 

After the agency teams saw the edited images for the first time, Jillian says, “We all had goose bumps, some cried, some were in shock, some looked away. It caused discussion and made us all think twice and feel that pit in our stomachs. Because of that, we knew it had to be put out into the world. We can’t become numb to what is happening as the atrocities continue in Ukraine. We need to feel what the Ukrainians are feeling and help any way we can.” And monitoring the public’s feedback, she also shares that the campaign has been sparking conversations and driving awareness on a global scale, with 231.5 million impressions within just the first 24 hours of launching.

“We truly believe that our craft and work can drive change and have a positive impact on human lives,” says Jillian. “In our field and with the platform we have, this is the type of work that we can and will continue to do. It’s a way that we can contribute to help make the world a better place.”

To see the images and find links to donate, visit the site here.

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Grey Toronto, Fri, 13 May 2022 17:01:00 GMT