Ideas That Inspire

It’s not every day that an agency gets an assignment to celebrate a country’s new beginning. But Fisnik Ismail’s agency, Ogilvy in Kosovo, did not actually have the official government assignment to commemorate the Serbian province’s independence earlier this year. So 10 days before the historic day, the agency partner and executive creative director embarked on an ambitious plan to get in on the action.

“It was all over the news that the government had about 1 million euros for the Independence Day celebration,” says Ismail. “We knew if we could come up with something interesting, they would probably use it.”

With just over a week to come up with a concept and execute it, the agency designed and began building a 10-foot-high, 79-foot-long, 3-foot-deep, 9-ton metal sculpture spelling the word “Newborn.” Two letters into the build, it pitched the committee in charge of the celebration.

“The minute they saw it they approved it,” says Ismail. “They loved the idea.”

On Feb. 17, the sculpture — created in English to send a global message and painted yellow to reflect the color of the new flag — was unveiled to the cheers of thousands. The first people to sign were the president and prime minister. “It was very beautiful, a great feeling,” says Ismail.

A silver Clio winner in environmental design, the “Newborn” sculpture was one of several projects honored at the recent Clio Festival that not only solved client problems but motivated human behavior in significant ways. A pro-bono campaign for the Prodis Foundation, an organization that helps people with Down syndrome lead independent lives, from Vitruvio Leo Burnett in Madrid, Spain, was shortlisted in Content & Contact. And a pro-bono effort to raise awareness for missing soldiers in Israel won a gold Clio in the Content & Contact competition. This week, Adweek launches a monthly feature that takes a closer look at ideas such as these that through determination and creativity create change.

The “Newborn” sculpture, created by the agency before it even knew it would get a paying assignment, is now a permanent fixture in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, and has been signed by more than 150,000 people. “This is made of metal for one reason; it’s meant to stay there,” says Ismail. “Now it has become a monument as well as a tourist attraction.”

In the case of the Prodis Foundation project, the Leo Burnett agency decided that instead of creating advertising that told the public that people with Down syndrome are more capable than commonly believed, it would show it by turning over the ad to their client’s clients.

“We spent a week at the foundation, talking to the teachers and to the kids themselves,” says Rafa Anton, executive creative director of Vitruvio. “When we came back, we started working on ideas and we thought we needed to show exactly what we experienced. The best idea was letting them do their own advertising.”

The agency went back to the foundation with cameras in hand and began filming. The entire experience — from briefing the students on the assignment during a surprise visit to one of their classrooms to creating and finishing their spot — was recorded and edited into commercials and a 25-minute documentary, The Story of a Beautiful Ad, that aired on prime-time Spanish TV.

“They were really excited. One of the kids said, ‘I’m going to be on TV, and I’ll finally get a boyfriend,'” says Anton. “This was a big decision, this had to be real. We could not let them down.”

Anton knew the kids had the skills to handle the production of the ad, but “we didn’t know how much of an idea they could come up with,” he says.