Trillion dollar bills to save paper

How an advertising agency fought for press freedom and broke industry records along the way.

As dictators around the world muzzle the media and newspapers confront an uncertain future, the freedom of the press has become one of the hottest topics of 2009. Advertising agency TBWA joined the debate with a disruptive campaign that scooped no less than nine top prizes at the industry’s annual festival in Cannes: a record. It centers on a crusading newspaper, a dictatorship and messages printed on trillion dollar banknotes.Trillion dollar bills to save paper

“The story reads like something out of a movie, but it’s painfully real,” says John Hunt, Worldwide Creative Director of TBWA. “The setting is Zimbabwe, where one of the only sources of reliable information is a newspaper called The Zimbabwean, whose journalists are forced to live and work in exile. On top of that, the Mugabe government has slapped a 70 percent import duty on the paper, so very few Zimbabweans can afford to buy it. Needless to say, it has almost no advertising budget.”

TBWA’s South African agency, TBWA\Hunt Lascaris, wanted to publicize the plight of the newspaper while simultaneously criticizing Robert Mugabe’s dysfunctional regime. “Thanks to runaway inflation, Zimbabwean currency literally isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. So we decided that it would be cheaper to print ads on Zimbabwean bills than on regular paper.”

The insight was a perfect fit with TBWA’s “disruption” theory, conceived by its chairman Jean-Marie Dru. Disruption is about overturning conventions to come up with original ideas. In this case, TBWA ignored conventional news channels and turned money into a medium – the symbol of a failed state. After record-breaking inflation Zimbabwe had recently issued the 100 trillion dollar note, whose 14 zeros did not even add up to the price of a loaf of bread.

 The Zimbabwean Trillion Dollar campaignTBWA\Hunt\Lascaris has won a record number of Cannes Lions for its Trillion Dollar campaign for The Zimbabwean newspaper at the prestigious annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. This is the single most awarded campaign coming out of South Africa in Cannes 56 year history.

To wach the The Zimbabwean Trillion Dollar campaign click here

If you want to read the total article click here


~ by Antonio Acevedo Garrido on September 28, 2009.

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