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‘It’s like a parallel universe’: Banda creative on Ukrainian agency’s Cannes Lions win

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By Amy Houston | Reporter

June 24, 2022 | 5 min read

Ukrainian creative agency Banda scooped a Silver Lion in the Design category at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for its disappearing logo for Chornobyl. The Drum caught up with creative director Alexandra Doroguntsova to find out what the recognition means to the agency and get her thoughts on the industry’s efforts to support Ukraine.

Last year, Banda developed a campaign aiming to draw international attention to cities within the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone that are gradually disappearing due to neglect, which, over time, means that the repercussions of the 1986 man-made disaster may become less visible. Little over a year later, as Russian troops invaded Ukraine, the project’s sentiment rang true again: every action has a consequence.

“It has been on the news for so long and people are really tired, but people are really still dying,” says Doroguntsova. “This moment [the win] is not for the glory, but for the bigger purpose.”

Banda1

Banda’s disappearing logo for Chornobyl / Banda

With everything their homeland is facing, the team at Banda will obviously not be able to celebrate this win as they normally would. “It’s a tough one because our team is now in all different places. Our main designer, whose idea it was to do this logo, couldn’t come – they didn’t let him out.”

Despite the agency’s 70+ members being displaced in various countries, and despite all the economic hardships they have faced, all have managed to keep their jobs throughout and it is Banda’s hope that this Cannes Lions win will help it gain some new global clients.

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The agency’s week in Cannes has also been important in terms of spreading its message. Banda employees who were able to travel to France have set up a gallery where they discuss the realities of the conflict with festival attendees.

“We share stories of people,” explains Doroguntsova. ”Like our senior designer, who left for the army, and one of the actors that we used in our commercials who is dead.”

Doroguntsova wants to drive home the message that the Ukrainian creatives are the “same people doing the same job as you every day”, but that ”their lives changed in one moment”.

When asked about the reaction to the team’s presence at Cannes, the creative director notes that people have been asking questions, trying to be active and engaging with them. “But when they ask ‘where are you from?’ and you say ‘Ukraine’ – they have a special face for that.”

Throughout the event, many organizations pledged to do what they can to support Ukraine in its fight against Vladimir Putin. Ukraine’s minister for culture and information policy Oleksandr Tkachenko and WPP’s chief executive officer Mark Read unveiled the ‘Advantage Ukraine’ initiative at the festival.

At the awards, meanwhile, Virtue Worldwide New York won the Digital Craft Lions Grand Prix for its Backup Ukraine campaign, which was designed to help Ukrainians capture historical artifacts and cultural landmarks in 3D imagery via their smartphone. Asked about the project, Doroguntsova says that while laudable in its intentions, ”nobody ever saw it in Ukraine” and that half of the population ”don’t have such a phone”.

It has been noted that many of the big winners at this year’s gathering have been purpose-led ads, and Doroguntsova jokes that Cannes Lions ”keeps inventing special categories for that” while highlighting that, in the 10 years since she first attended, not a lot has changed.

“It’s good to have social projects, but it’s still good to make some money around it. For me, it’s like a parallel universe – the things that are happening in Russia now are like a parallel universe and here [Cannes] is another.”

As an agency, Banda wants to continue to create award-winning work and to be back at Cannes Lions in 2023, says Doroguntsova. “We will fight in the international arena for clients and we hope to gain some trust with the help of the Lions.”

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