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Creative New Year Honors News

The United Nations... for its open brief: The Drum editorial team’s best of 2020


By The Drum Reporters | Editorial team

January 1, 2021 | 4 min read

It’s that time again, when we look back at the agencies, the brands, the organizations, movements and trends that have shaped the past year. In 2020 – a year so many of us would like to forget – our industry of problem solvers proved time and again that they have what it takes to muck in, help out, ask questions, shape cultures and change the world. It is them that we celebrate in our New Year Honors.


The Brief brought in 17,000 entries from 143 countries and in 20 different languages

When the cruellest month of March rolled around, Covid-19 was spreading across the globe at an unprecedented speed. In a bid to raise awareness about the practical steps members of the public could take to avoid transmitting the virus, the United Nations enlisted the help of creatives from around the world through its ‘Global Call to Creatives: an open brief from the United Nations’.

The first of its kind, the UN launched the open creative brief in the hopes that creatives everywhere would be able to spread the public health messages in ways that would be effective, accessible and shareable, saying that it needed help “translating critical public health messages into different languages, different cultures, communities and platforms, reaching everyone, everywhere”.

By reaching out to creatives in particular, the UN hoped it could inspire creators, influencers, talent, networks and media owners to take these crucial messages and put an innovative spin on them in order to amplify them to audiences.

The UN identified six key areas of activation it hoped to emphasize with its brief: personal hygiene, social distancing, know the symptoms, myth-busting and ‘do more, donate’, and the response was impressive. With over 17,000 entries from 143 countries, and in 20 different languages, the responses took inspiration from everything from Keith Haring illustrations to classic film posters, and took shape on everything from receipts to animations.

However, the operation wasn’t launched in the hopes of spawning the next cohort of Cannes winners – although the UN hoped it would encourage even people who had never worked in advertising before to lend their creativity to the cause. It was designed with the goal of mobilising the community and providing accurate information to keep people safe.

Work could be submitted using an online portal and was then reviewed to check it was in line with the current World Health Organization guidance before being tagged by language, format and message, and published on a UN microsite.

Once approved, the work could then be downloaded and published by anyone who wanted to use, as long as credit was given appropriately. Content could be taken down as and when the WHO’s guidance changed, so messaging remained safe and accurate. There were no ‘winners’ of this brief. However, the response was so overwhelming that Talenthouse’s creative briefing platform had to be brough in to handle the sheer volume of work being submitted.

Through its initiative, the UN was able to do something the advertising industry often struggles to achieve for itself – it democratised it for a greater cause. By allowing individuals, agencies, brands and media companies alike to lend their skills and talents to a global public message at a time when morale was low and information fraught with fear and fallacies, the UN’s Open Brief served an example of using the power of advertising for good.

We’ll be celebrating all our favorite things about 2020 on between now and early January. Keep an eye on our New Year Honors hub to read more.

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