Making better worlds together, with UNICEF and VaynerMedia

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On World Refugee Day (20th June) UNICEF launched a campaign to encourage people to think differently about refugee and migrant children, to focus on what the adoptive communities gain.

Created by VaynerMedia, its team of senior art director Lianne Rivett, Dan Fryer and Gate Lambert as associate creative directors, and overseen by executive creative director, Becky McOwen-Banks, the work follows the true story of one Syrian refugee.

This week we are getting Behind the Idea with an interview to Gate, Becky and Dan, who have shared the ins and outs of this unique UNICEF campaign below.

What was the brief?

UNICEF’s ‘Together We Make Better Worlds’ campaign is about getting our target audience to think differently about refugee and migrant children. With this work, we want people to stop seeing these children as helpless victims, and instead start seeing them as capable partners who can – and will – help make the world better for everyone.

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

We knew we wanted to focus on real stories – these stories hit home to us and we had felt their power. Starting from our initial presentations, we focused on this. After all, what better way to convince our audience of the real potential of refugee and migrant children, than by illustrating it with a real example? So, from a creative point of view, it started with our team and clients finding the stories and choosing one we felt would best paint the full picture.

Tell us more about the concept. Why was it the right choice?

To change the view of how refugees and migrants are perceived, we had to take a different path. The power of the concept was in the emotion of the story and taking the audience on that journey – one of pride and success and positivity for the future. That’s not a story you often hear from a charity.

This execution tells the account of Aboud Kaplo, a child who escaped the Syrian war by moving with his family to Lebanon. Without school for two years, Aboud learnt to play violin – the only possession brought from home – from YouTube tutorials. He now lives in Sydney, where he gives back to his local community by playing with the Sydney Youth Orchestra, and through his ties with UNICEF.

There are so many stories that show just how much refugee and migrant children bring to their adoptive communities, but Aboud's story had something about it which just felt right. We contacted him through UNICEF, and he was immediately onboard; then our senior creative, Lianne Rivett, set to work finding the most engaging way to tell his story.

What was the production process like? How long did it take, and what was the biggest challenge?

We received three great bids from production companies, but Judith Veenendaal's from Stink Films stood out. She had such a clear and beautiful vision for the film, we knew she and everyone at Stink would stop at nothing to do this project justice. 

The whole film was shot in one location, in a day, and we really must give credit to the team at Stink for a very smooth shoot. As is common with charity projects, the budget was not the biggest, but it really felt like Stink were pulling out all the stops.

What’s the main message of the campaign and why does it matter?

This campaign departs from traditional fundraising tactics of depicting distress, and instead focuses on the strengths and hopes of refugee and migrant children, and what they can do for the world.

The message is simple: migrant and refugee children have a lot to give, and with your help, can make the world a better place for everyone. It's a crucial message because we need to ensure no one thinks of charitable donations as a bottomless well of need. In the long run, most charitable donations make better worlds for everyone including the donor. So, if you can make donations, you should.


Why will the final assets resonate with consumers?

Let's be honest, there's a reason why the proverb 'charity begins at home' exists – humans are naturally inclined to think of their direct surroundings first. But with this campaign, we show that by making the lives of children around the world better, you also impact your own community.

What is one unique fact about the campaign that will help it cut through?

Authenticity + Crafting excellence.

We’re incredibly pleased with how beautiful and interesting the final film turned out. In the current climes, authenticity has never been more appreciated or more important – but ‘authentic’ doesn’t have to mean low quality. Our campaign elevates the storytelling and production values of UNICEF.

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

It goes without saying that we are thrilled to have UNICEF as a client. There are no words to describe the importance of its work. So, as we were given the task of creating a film which shifts public perception of migrant and refugee children around the world, we sincerely hope it achieves exactly that.

How satisfying is it to see it out there after so much hard work?

We're sure everyone who worked on this is proud to have been part of this project. It's been a real labour of love for Lianne and so many of our talented colleagues at Vaynermedia, a fantastic effort from Judith and the team at Stink, and of course, none of it would have been possible without the hard work and dedication from our clients at UNICEF. So, while we are incredibly satisfied with the result, the more overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude for everyone's help making this project a reality.


Any final thoughts to add?

It is wonderful to see this first stage of the UNICEF work out in the world – not only as a timely reframing of how refugees are viewed (we launched on World Refugee Day 2020) but for the agency to show the beautiful level of craft we create. 

It shows that UNICEF also believes in the power of great creative work to cut through and change the narrative en masse. We are so proud of all the work we produce for UNICEF and continually aim to raise the creative bar. Indeed, we have just finished shooting the next stage of this campaign in Greece – under lockdown, running a second local crew and remote direction on QTake. We can’t wait to share that next stage which takes us into game design, so watch this space.


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