Vodafone Put Romania’s Elders on Facebook Live to Salvage Their Dying Cultural Traditions

A crash course in heritage

Many cultures can be neatly divided into two worlds: Elders whose traditions and crafts are dying, and the connected generation, who have more in common with others of their ilk—even elsewhere around the world—than with their local predecessors.

This divide is natural, but can lead to the loss of massive amounts of knowledge and cultural wealth. To address it, Vodafone Romania and McCann released “Live. From a Different World,” a campaign that connects the two generations using Facebook Live.

Romania’s wild Carpathian Mountains are home to a wealth of elders and artisans who’ve devoted their lives to maintaining ancient Romanian customs and professions. They’re so revered that the country’s ministry of culture has officially labeled them “Living Human Treasures.”

Few knew such a label even existed until last year, when Vodafone hooked the elders up to Facebook and gave today’s audiences direct access to their knowledge. Those involved in the campaign included a sheepskin coat maker, a glass and wood icon painter, and the last doina singer in existence.

“Live. From a Different World” yielded over 2 million live views over its course, and lifted perception of Vodafone’s 4G coverage to No. 1 in the country. But more important than that, the wit, wisdom and craft of the elders made a cultural impact that spread across media.

In addition to modern young people asking the elders about topics like love or the secret to managing stress, tennis player Simona Halep appealed to them for strength, rap artist CRBL worked with one to make a track, and fashion designer Dorin Negrau drew inspiration from their artisanal garb.

Our quest to reinvent ourselves and the world at large often takes us to unexpected places. The internet empowers us to draw from resources and cultures we’ve never even seen in person. But there’s something poetic about using that same connectivity to remind us of the beautiful things that lie in wait within our own historical roots.

It’s sad to think that, 10 or so years from now, Romania will be culturally indistinguishable from France, Poland, Germany or the U.S. One single human is richer than that; our cultures should be able to reflect diversity, too, without losing any sense of what we share and value as increasingly connected communities.