Even before Covid-19 curtailed global and domestic travel and isolated many in their homes, an increasingly fragmented political landscape (see Brexit, or the global rise of polarising identity politics) had creatives channeling a joint sense that unity, community and interpersonal connections were under threat.
In response, much of this year’s work taps into the human drive for connection, creating powerful messages of togetherness fuelled by fears of separation. It rouses emotion and reminds us that in times of tension and disharmony we seek the comfort of connection and community.
Crocodile Insidesee project
Crocodile Inside by Iconoclast Paris/BETC Paris for Lacoste is a visceral and cinematic campaign film that visualises this sense of separation, where a couple’s world – and apartment – is literally torn apart. As their building crashes to the ground, the couple are reunited and embrace as the tagline reads: ‘Life is a Beautiful Sport’. Speaking to D&AD earlier this year, Megaforce director Leo Berne said, “I think what [Lacoste] wanted to show was the importance of having an elegant attitude when going through adversity.”
All That We Share – Connected by TV 2 Denmark sought to combat the fact that 90% of the Danish population avoid speaking to strangers in public spaces. The campaign centred on a social experiment to show that strangers can be more intimately connected than they realised. The bold experiment used a cast of people that were all connected to one another without knowing it themselves, ranging from a man meeting the person who bought his childhood home to someone meeting the midwife who delivered them at birth. It was described by casting director and cinematographer Edu Perez, when talking to D&AD earlier this year, as, “probably the most amazing casting ever done.” Relying on deep investigative research and planning, this ambitious experiment led people to think differently about their own lives and their relationship with others.
Numerous studies have attributed the detriment of our real world relationships and human interactions to excessive use of social media platforms. Several published in 2019, which were followed by media hand wringing about the issue, suggested a link between time spent using social media and loneliness. Social media platforms have responded with work that seeks to counter this concern by showcasing how social channels can bring people closer together in real life as well as digitally.
As soon as you put the sound on and that track… It’s just incredible
Never Lost by Droga5 for Facebook is a campaign populated by found footage produced during the Covid-19 pandemic, and demonstrates the power of solidarity and resilience in response to the drastic changes reverberating around the world. Promoting Facebook’s Community Help feature, this human driven campaign responds to the concerns users may be facing – such as loneliness and separation – and shows them how its product can be a meaningful tool to cope. This short, emotionally charged film, set to an excerpt from Kate Tempest’s track People’s Faces, taps into the human condition and the desire for connectivity, whilst emphasising the impact selecting the right track can have.
Talking to D&AD earlier this year, Lou Allen, Factory Studios Head of Production and Executive Producer, said: “As soon as you put the sound on and that track… It’s just incredible. It’s really emotional and I think it’s just really now and if we’re talking about craft and sound design without that track it’s just not the same thing.”
It’s Between You is a short film by AlmapBBDO for Facebook, and the first WhatsApp brand campaign. It taps real stories to illustrate how digital connectivity can nurture IRL relationships and build common ground. The narrative follows the embittered rivalry between two opposing samba school organisers at Rio Carnival, where a tragic fire alters the course of their relationship, which plays out over the app. This authentic and relatable work used actors and communities who are residents of the neighbourhood where the film is shot.
Old Spice Next Episodesee project
Tapping into the role that humour plays within friendship groups can be a useful device for creative work seeking to establish connection. Old Spice Next Episode by Wieden + Kennedy Portland is a comedic but impactful call-to-arms for men to use the Old Spice Swagger range as a catalyst to save their fallen friends, who lay defeated on the binge-watching, social media-scrolling battlefield of modern life. This approach used a balance of light-hearted and dramatised relatability by depicting the everyday obstacles that often prevent people from real human interaction.
The Last Milesee project
Nostalgia is a powerful tool and The Last Mile by Nexus Studios for Volkswagen harnesses it, building a retrospective world with the product at the heart of cultural memory. Marking the VW Beetle’s ceasing of production, the film places the iconic car in the collective memories of viewers by positioning it within big historical cultural moments as well as universal personal experiences, such as first dates and births. The animation technique of rotoscoping – a traditional hand-tracing technique – provides an added human touch.
Cities are made by myriad collective experiences of the individuals who populate them. Refik Anadol Studio’s Machine Hallucination: New York, commissioned by Artechouse: New York, used spatial and installation design as a means to identify interconnectivity in the city. The studio’s largest installation to date explores New York's architecture through the mind of a machine. By deploying machine-learning algorithms on photographs of New York City, this creative work seeks to uncover a collective memory through the ever-changing shape of an iconic city.
As people search for greater connectivity in a time of separation and polarisation, challenges presented by a pandemic will intensify the feelings informing much of this work, and fuel further interventions to help counter it. Political polarisation, fear of the pandemic and the practical issues of gathering and travelling pose a challenge. Work that can tell resonating stories through authentic use of UGC, design and music techniques that promote emotional connection, and more experimental interventions are just some of the ploys that can cater to this need.
Theme Report by Neighbourhood, commissioned and edited by D&AD for the 2020 D&AD digital Annual.