Holiday Campaign Interview: Merry Christmas From Syria


Lode Vochten
Creative Director DigitasLBi Belgium
In a few words, tell us about your role in the creation of "Merry Christmas from Syria"


Nik Sluijs, Joey Boeters and I are the 3 creatives who came up with the idea and produced it overnight.
What was the original brief for this campaign?
The situation in Syria, and Aleppo to be precise, was very dangerous at the time. A lot of organizations were withdrawing their personnel because of this. Since Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement are largely populated with local volunteers, they remained active to help their fellow men struck by this horrible tragedy.
We were asked to make a campaign to raise awareness on the fact that local volunteers of the Red Cross were/are still active in the field and need your support more than ever. Our campaign needed to kill indifference to the daily news we received from Syria at that time and our media team needed to work with a very short deadline.
What inspired you to approach the campaign this way?
Our media options were limited due to the short deadline. Setting up production would take too much time. After a short brainstorm we came up with a couple of PR stunts and the idea of the final movie. We decided to trust our gut feeling and went 100% for the ‘Let it snow’ idea.
How difficult was it to sell the idea to Red Cross?
The power of this idea was in its execution. Simply explaining the idea wasn’t going to sell it. We truly believed in our concept and we made the movie overnight to show it to our creative directors. After the first internal screening the room became very quiet and the account director started crying. We realized that we had made something impactful and that we needed to show it to the client ASAP. After the first screening to the client their instant reaction was the same: we need to show this to the world.
A brave decision!
What was the biggest challenge you faced during the process?
Producing this movie was emotionally very hard. For every scene we chose, we had to watch 15 others with horrible footage. Even now, after seeing the movie for the hundredth time it still touches me.
What did you learn from the experience?
We’re not in the idea business, we’re in the idea presenting business. Because, we made the movie, we sold it. I’m sure that if we presented the script with storyboards, like you normally would, the strength of the movie wouldn’t come through and we probably never would have made this movie. Sure, it’s a risk and you can’t do this for every concept but if you truly believe in your idea you have to go the extra mile.
What’s a “behind the scenes” story that only you know about?
Our campaign, which was rewarded multiple international Film Craft awards, was actually edited by Nik, a creative, with iMovie; in one night. iMovie, perhaps is not the most professional software to make high-end advertising movies, but then again our idea didn’t need that.
What do you think the advertising industry's New Year’s resolution should be?
To truly become a partner of advertisers.
What is your favorite holiday campaign of all time?
Harvey Nichols – Sorry, I spent it on myself


Lode Vochten
Creative Director DigitasLBi Belgium