Agency Dispatch From Kyiv: The War Effort Is The Singular Focus Of Creative Work

As Ukraine struggles to fend off the Russians, who invaded the country two weeks ago, the creative agency community there is now singularly dedicating itself to “helping the fight on the information front,” as Valentyna Polovynka, with Kyiv-based ad agency Bickerstaff wrote in an email today.

“Due to the war the Ukrainian creative business put on hold all projects” not related to the war effort. In normal times the agency would be developing client strategies, ad campaigns, branding and a variety of digital projects. It’s won a bunch of awards for its work, including Effies, Epicas and Golden Drums.

“In less than two weeks, we created 6 projects with the Ukrainian state to stop Russian aggression,” Polovynka says. “Some projects are about humanitarian aid to the army and other social and military issues.”

One example of Bickerstaff’s work is a video that targets the mothers of captive and killed Russian soldiers. While it’s hard to get a complete read on how Bickerstaff’s video was being received in Russia—or to what extent it was even available there—Polovynka said some Russian and Belarussian mothers expressed thanks after viewing it.



The pivot to support the government’s information campaigns has put a crimp in the agency’s budget but Polovynka says, “Our agency has a small budget to support the staff. In a professional manner, now we try to do everything to ensure the safety of employees, save jobs, projects, salaries and support the country's economy.  But we are not sure what to expect tomorrow. But we are still strong and keep on fighting to win.”

Beyond the campaign work for the government, creatives are helping in other ways including weaving nets, helping out in volunteer headquarters and helping to organize humanitarian aid to cities. “Everyone is united for the sake of helping each other for the sake of victory,” she says.

“Communication with employees has not changed much since the lockdown, but some rituals have appeared,” she said. “For example, if an employee does not get in touch for a long time, we can write to his friends / girlfriend / relatives — fortunately, so far the reason for this absence was simply the discharged gadgets and the inability of the employee to leave the bomb shelter. In the end, everyone was safe.”

“This war is hard to imagine in the 21st century, but it takes place right in our homes, on our streets,” Polvynka writes, bearing witness to life on the front lines of the war. “But we are sure that we will win, we will stand. Ukraine rallied as a nation and acted as a human shield for Europe.”

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