Playing for Keeps

To promote the Chicago Public Schools’ new music education awareness program and instruments fund drive, Leo Burnett went far beyond the city’s boundaries.
The pro-bono effort tells the story of Verdan Smailovic. As Smailovic is seen playing his cello in a burned-out building, onscreen text tells how, during the shelling of Sarajevo earlier this decade, he dressed in formal concert attire every day, headed to the crumbling downtown and played as the bombs fell around him.
In a voiceover, Smailovic says he wishes everyone who has a gun would pick up a musical instrument instead.
The camera shot widens and pans out to reveal that he is not in the former Yugoslavia, but on Chicago’s West Side.
The idea for the commercial came from Leo Group chief creative officer Michael Conrad, who first heard Smailovic’s story on National Public Radio and wanted to find a way to relate it to the violence in Chicago.
“I think there’s a bit of Sarajevo in America,” Conrad said. –Aaron Baa