Something better than best

Inside story from TBWA team
wilf_awardsAs a creative, theres only one word you want to hear from a client. And when you feel like youre onto something, you want to hear it quickly: Yes. (Pictured: Damon Stapleton, Exec Creative Director, and Wilf Mbanga, The Editor of The Zimbabwean - with some of the D&AD Yello

Its been over a year since the group of us squashed into Bridgets office and huddled around her phone for the conference call to Liz. We had been through the work with her, and she had been patiently quiet as we explained each element of the campaign. So you want to use real money? she asked after a pause. Ill have to check with Wilf, but I think its fantastic. We were astonished. It wasnt that we doubted the people at The Zimbabweans bravery.

On the contrary, we knew from our very first meeting with them that they were fighting more than swords with their pens. Intimidation, exile and assault had become their business competitors and, at the genesis of the Trillion Dollar Campaign, the Zanu (PF) regime was charging a luxury tax on all copies of The Zimbabwean that reached home, pricing the truth out of reach of the very people who needed it most. There was no question that they were the kind of people who could handle heat, but to print on money is hugely symbolic, and when that money is a purposefully manufactured tool of a morally and financially bankrupt state with a tendency to bear grudges, the risk is enormous.

How understandable it would have been if The Zimbabwean opted for a less controversial strategy, especially in such dangerous times. The fact that they didnt galvanised us into making sure we got it right. Although four names of two creative teams receive much of the credit for The Trillion Dollar Campaign, the reality is that for two months, our agency operated as a platoon.

From the power-brokers on the top floor who embarked on a quest for ever more media space at lower rates, to the project managers who handled the logistics of a campaign that had never, in any shape or form, been attempted before. While we spent long nights debating the fine-tuning of the messaging and art-direction, others were also at their desks making sure the less prolific legal, financial and production matters were in place.

All the time, the situation in Zimbabwe was deteriorating with notes losing value by the hour, and denominations climbing. Our client, and those with contacts in Zimbabwe made sure this worthless currency made its way to us, and as we heaped, piled and sorted it we were confronted with the irony of the depictions of Zimbabwes infrastructure and beauty on each bill.

We had no time to dwell on this with the help of our studio staff, we had to assemble each of the campaign elements note by note. These were then taken to highly skilled silk-screeners who worked 24 hour shifts in various parts of Johannesburgs downtown.

There was never a point at which we felt entirely ready to hit the streets but the moment the campaign broke there was a response. The sight, the feel and the idea of so much currency stopped South Africans from all walks of life in their tracks.

Reactions were overwhelmingly supportive, not unanimously of course the political climate here was economically and ethnically charged by the situation up north- but the point was to make the news, something we had achieved in print and television within a matter of hours, and across all media within a couple of days.

Our own team of photographers documented every second of the roll-out, making sure that every development was broadcast. As the global financial crisis plunged countries with better bandwidth than us into despair, hundreds and hundreds of blogs carried content on the Trillion Dollar Campaign.

Post published in: News

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