Instead of Victims, Unicef Ad Reimagines Refugees as Powerful Video Game Characters

VaynerMedia campaign challenges viewers to think differently about migrants

In addition to the ad, the campaign includes a digital mini game starring the refugee children. VaynerMedia London / Unicef

What if refugees were seen as heroes, instead of victims? A new ad by VaynerMedia London for Unicef repositions the way people think about migrants as fellow human beings with hope, dreams, ambition and potential—all the makings of a video game hero.

The one-minute hero ad, titled “Reimagine the world like a gamer,” aims to shift perceptions of refugees and migrants away from the “guilt and fear” often employed by charity ads to connect with the audience and drive donations.

The film is shot to look as though the viewer is a gamer, with migrant children as characters. Using visuals often seen in video games, such as a heads-up display, the spot enables viewers to see the power and potential in these young people, rather than just the confines of their current situation.

Shot remotely during the lockdown in Greece, it brings to life the real stories of three refugee children: Nora, Sama and Pouya, who hope to become a doctor, an author and a pilot—and calls on the audience to help them reach their goals with the headline: “Your New Mission: Unlock Their Potential.”

VaynerMedia also collaborated with developer Gameloft on a digital mini game starring the children as the main characters. The campaign is live across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, as well as via paid banner ads.

“We want to pioneer an incredibly important message: that despite their situations, these children have astounding potential and we can help them to achieve it. They have an incredible amount to give to society and their local communities when provided with the right support,” said Codi Trigger, Unicef global campaign manager.

DuBose Cole, head of strategy at VaynerMedia London, added: “Gaming allows people to see the world in new ways, and that allows people to see the challenges facing migrant and refugee children from a new perspective.

“In a virtual world anything is possible, so this campaign aims to inspire us to think about what more we can possibly do to help children. Using the language of gaming allows us to be bold and imaginative to bring this incredibly important cause to life.”

Title/project: Unicef Reimagine — Gaming
Agency: VaynerMedia London
Agency Contact: Miles Byrd, senior account manager
Client Name: Codi Trigger, global campaign manager
Copywriter: Esin Huseyin
Art Director: Davide Mauroni
Associate Creative Director: Dan Fryer
Associate Creative Director: Gate Lambert
Head of Strategy: DuBose Cole
Strategist: Brandon O’Neil
Senior Strategist: Marie-Claire Manson
Producer: Andrea Ogunbadejo
Production Company: UNIT9
Director: Tom Brown

@saramayspary Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.