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How Ukrainian Businesses Stand Firm, A Year into the War


We hear from leaders at Ukrainian creative companies about how they’re supporting their staff and innovating to keep working, despite Russia’s continuing invasion

How Ukrainian Businesses Stand Firm, A Year into the War

Last week many around the world expressed their solidarity with Ukraine, a year since Russia’s invasion began. And the ad industry was no different. Many of the largest advertising organisations took the opportunity to demonstrate the resilience of their employees there.

Holding company WPP issued a video in which three leaders in the country reflected on how their lives have changed, and their hopes for the future. It was a tone that many other groups in the industry echoed.

International content activation agency and marketing experts, Locaria, whose creative arm is based in Kyiv, put out a similar film on the endurance its people have shown in the past year. Mykhailo Pimenov, EVP of creative content explained: "The film is compiled of footage from team members to reflect on the myriad of big and small events that happened to all of us during this year. With this film, we want to emphasise that life will always prevail over the hardships and challenges that war brings. As a team, we have always been innovative in our approaches and this shows in our work, and in how we handle situations. We initially made this video as an internal recap of the past year, but decided that we had a strong message that we wanted to share."

Ukrainian-born service production company Radioaktivefilm issued a statement to thank the APA, ACIP and their members, as well as the numerous individuals who provided support to the Ukrainian production community in so many ways. 

At the very start of the war, the company launched a humanitarian mission to channel supplies from Poland to Ukraine and to directly support the production community from crew to caterers, who need help with border crossings, accommodation, supplies and more. 

Inspired by the actions taken by Ukrainian friends in the creative industries, the production associations of both the UK (APA) and the US (AICP) decided that the most effective means of support was for the associations to facilitate donations, collecting money from members and pass it on to Radioaktive, who has been organising support from its temporary base in Warsaw. 

Radioaktive has also been working with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) on film featuring Ukrainians still living in their country reciting the lyrics to the song of hope ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ Last week LBB’s Zoe Antonov heard more about the film, which was shot totally remotely in Ukraine and features people who have chosen to stay in or return to the war-torn country. Shooting in an active war zone is no small feat and the production process involved creating entirely new crew roles, adapting to the situation, and on top of that – a last minute director change. 

Illia Balaban, CEO at Who Are You Agency shared his experiences on the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion in Ukraine, during which he stressed the resourcefulness, determination to make the best out of even a little, and the will to never give up, of the Ukrainian creative industries.

We caught up with some more creative industry leaders in Kyiv to hear how things have changed and how they’ve found ways of continuing in the face of war.

Inna Polshyna

Director of creative services at ANGRY agency

Since 2017, ANGRY's portfolio consisted mostly of social and cultural projects, and after February 24, 2022, we do only these types of projects. We are an agency driven by creativity and culture to gain social impact.

In general, we work with the government, large international institutions, or their representative offices in Ukraine. But, of course, we also do social responsibility campaigns for Ukrainian companies and organisations. The demand for campaigns has increased because of the number of social problems increasing due to the war. We have a lot of work to do now. And this hard work gives us a sense of normality. The feeling that you are alive, while bad people are shelling your country with rockets.

From the very beginning, the Ukrainian creative industry started to work 24/7 to fight against the Russian propaganda. We all started spontaneously. Everybody volunteered for different organisations. Over time, this work has been structured. Now different agencies work with different government sectors: donations, media relations, public relations inside and outside the country, and government agencies. We all understand that it is a marathon, not a sprint.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, everybody in the world tried to do what they could, and the creative industry is no exception: free festival entries and passes, free media coverage, and new connections. And even a special edition of Adweek, ‘On Ukraine, By Ukrainians’. And I think that's a good start. The more we feel that we are part of the world, the more it works. It helps to understand that people hear you and that you share the same values. We can feel it during judging festivals of creativity together, taking part in public talks, writing columns, and working with international clients. 

Creative people are always looking for inspiration. And I am sure, Ukrainians are ready to share Ukrainian culture with the world.

Mila Krutchenko

Chief strategy officer at RAZOM Group - the Ukrainian group of companies that includes Initiative, Universal McCann and Havas Media Ukraine

This year was tough for the market overall, so, of course, my company wasn't an exception. As our business totally relies on the advertisers, a full stop of advertising campaigns from February-March was really painful. But we did believe in the victory of Ukraine, so we started looking for ways to support our clients, find the right communication messages and revive the media market. In April. several clients renewed their activity and each following month shows gradual growth since. But we expect full market recovery by the end of 2024 at the earliest.

So we looked for new sources of business and one of them was to offer our teams for the outsource projects abroad. In 2022 we successfully finished over 10 projects in Europe, the USA and in LATAM.

This proactive position and help from our international networks allowed our company to keep the team and break even by the end of the first war year.

We also haven't stopped thinking of ways we can help our country, so we've launched several social initiatives aimed to support Ukrainians and deliver our message to the media community. One of such initiatives is 

Maria Fabro-Giraud

Executive producer at 23/32 Films

Our company continues working in Ukraine for remote commercial projects as well as documentary projects. There is quite a lot of demand for documentary film production in Ukraine. The documentary films we produce together with our foreign partners are not all war-related, which gives us a much needed distraction from our war-affected daily life. 

Our latest job we’re proud of is ‘Superpower’ – a documentary film co-directed by Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufmann we have worked on for years with our colleagues from Vice. It premiered in this year’s Berlinale film festival and was received with a standing ovation.

The commercial film and music video branch of our company had ventured out onto new territories outside of Ukraine (Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia). Thanks to our long term partners and clients, who believe in us, we managed to produce several commercial campaigns outside of our country involving as many of our Ukrainian crew and talent as possible. 

Our foreign friends and clients have shown overwhelming support to us from the very first day of the invasion. They helped us employ some of our crews in their respective countries, giving them and their families a chance at normalising their lives away from home. 

Others continue to provide us with projects which we produce together outside of Ukraine. Which helps keep our company afloat and allows us to continue doing the work we love.

We had set up a system where we contribute part of our commission to volunteers and fighting crew members on the ground in Ukraine, on behalf of our clients. This way we maximise our support and involve our partners in continuously helping Ukrainians persevere. 

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LBB Editorial, Wed, 01 Mar 2023 12:00:50 GMT