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D&AD Annual 2020

Seeking Connection

Seeking Connection

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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.

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.

Never Lost, Droga5
Never Lost, Droga5

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.

Machine Hallucination: New York, Refik Anadol Studio
Machine Hallucination: New York, Refik Anadol Studio

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.

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