Ad of the Day: Unicef Follows Up With the Syrian Child Refugees From Its ‘Unfairy Tales’ Ads

A glimmer of hope at the end of a dark year

The recent fall of Aleppo marked a turning point in Syria's long war, which began more than five years ago and reached its violent apex in 2016 as a numb and largely powerless world looked on. 

Images of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh riding in an ambulance after a bombing—covered in dust and dried blood and unaware that he would soon lose his older brother—will feature prominently in many future summaries of the year that was. 

As the conflict that has killed more than 300,000 and displaced 20 times that number continues, a cautiously hopeful campaign promoting the work of humanitarian group Unicef reminds us that some young people have escaped the bloodshed to make new lives for themselves. 

Last February, the first animated "Unfairy Tales" spot by creative agency 180LA highlighted the story of Malak, a 7-year-old girl who crossed the Mediterranean Sea in a rickety boat with her mother. A later effort by the same agency focused on 13-year old Mustafa, who had to leave his toys and friends behind as some of his family fled to Germany. 

That work has been viewed by more than half a billion people across 176 countries while winning five 2016 Cannes Lions, including the Grand Prix for Good. 

Now, for two new spots in the series, 180LA revisits both kids one year later. Malak no longer faces daily threats of violence or an unforgiving sea, but thoughts of the conflict that separated her from her friends in Syria remain. 

A maturing Mustafa reflects on why some German children might be wary of him, while noting that his father and sister are closer to the ongoing unrest in Iraq and Syria. 

Despite the upbeat tone of the ads, the absence of Mustafa's family emphasizes that the narratives of many refugees will not be neatly resolved.

"Nearly 50 million children are on the move—28 million of them forced to flee their homes because of conflict," said Unicef director of communication Paloma Escudero. "Across the world, people are showing acts of humanity to migrant and refugee children, welcoming them into communities and schools. These small acts of kindness can make all the difference to individual lives, and we encourage more people to show empathy toward children on the move." 

"Many people were touched by these films and wanted to know what happened to the children," said Eduardo Marques, executive creative director at 180LA. "We're happy to share they've found new homes in Germany, but we all need to be reminded that these kids need to be welcomed into their new community and no act of kindness is too small."

The new ads will be promoted across Unicef's social media channels as part of its #actofhumanity global campaign.

180LA created the ads, with animation houses Consulado, House of Colors, Bubba's Chop Shop and Gilles+Cecilie Studio contributing their work pro bono; Circle of Sound and Therapy Studios handled the sound and music, while Media Monks produced a corresponding series of interactive e-books.

The lead agency was one of 51 businesses that answered President Obama's September call to action regarding the global refugee crisis and the settlement of children like Malak and Mustafa.


Client: Unicef

Campaign: "Unfairy Tales": Follow-up Films

Ad Agency: 180LA

William Gelner, Chief Creative Officer

Michael Allen, Chief Executive Officer

Rafael Rizuto, Executive Creative Officer

Eduardo Marques, Executive Creative Officer

Dave Cuccinello, Creative Director

David Povill, Creative Director

Meredithe Woodward, Account Manager

Michael Allen, Account Planning Director

Natasha Wellesley, Director of Integrated Production

​Jason Lau, Art and Content Producer​

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