iamsterdam to iamazonia: Duval Guillaume & Greenpeace

It’s only when something is gone, that we realize how much we miss it. With this in mind, Greenpeace brought back one of Europe's most photographed tourist attractions - the giant 'I amsterdam' letters which previously stood in front of the Dutch capital’s world-famous Rijksmuseum - as 'I amazonia'. The 22m x 3 m high replica sign aims to draw attention to another landmark vital to our survival which is disappearing in front of our eyes: the Amazon rainforest.

When the original ‘I amsterdam’ letters were removed in December 2018 an outcry went through international media. The letters have been one of the most instagrammed, photographed, and recognized landmarks in Europe, familiar to millions of people worldwide.

Duval Guillaume tapped into an idea that is as smart as it is simple: a stunt in which the iconic red and white 'I am' letters are put back in their original spot, with a strikingly modified spelling: 'I amazonia'.

Coming in at 23 meters wide and 3 meters high the ‘I amazonia’ installation is an exact copy of the original tourist attraction that was removed by the current city council. However, Greenpeace’s "I amazonia" letters, aim to draw attention to another icon that is being removed before our eyes, the Amazonian rainforest.

Sigrid Deters, forest and biodiversity campaigner at Greenpeace Netherlands said: “Our capital city's iconic 'I amsterdam' sign, set in front of the Rijksmuseum, drew the admiration and camera lenses of millions of people worldwide. By bringing it back in altered state as 'I amazonia', Greenpeace not only calls for the urgent protection of the largest remaining rainforest in the world, but also sends a strong message of solidarity to the Indigenous People and traditional communities who are protecting the Amazon against deforestation."

Under the leadership of President Bolsonaro, the Brazilian government plans to open up the Amazon forest for exploitation. Unlike the ‘I amsterdam’-sign, the Amazon forest is an iconic place the world cannot afford to lose. Because if we lose the Amazon forest today, we will lose the fight against climate change forever. And it’s only when the Amazon rainforest will be gone, that we will realize how much we miss it. Koenraad Lefever, creative director at Duval Guillaume: “Although the conversation about the climate is omnipresent today, it is striking that the

focus on deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has faded into the background. However, "further deforestation of the Amazon forest will not only be a scar for Brazil, but will increase the impacts of a climate breakdown.".

With an action in the heart of Amsterdam that expresses that “we are all Amazonia", we are re-focusing all eyes of the world on what is a global urgency." #Iamazonia

Arnaud Bailly
Креативная команда Air, Partner of McCann

Tell us about your role in the creation of this work.

We were tasked with an ambition that is as old as our childhood memories ‘Save the Amazon’. (sweating emoji)

Give us an overview of the campaign, what is it about?

Together with Greenpeace, we brought back one of Europe's most photographed tourist attractions, the giant 'I amsterdam' letters which previously stood in front of the Dutch capital’s world famous Rijksmuseum, as 'I amazonia'. The 22m x 3m replica sign aims to draw attention to another landmark, vital to our survival, which is disappearing in front of our eyes: the Amazon rainforest. Both the new monument and the film we made around it, encourage people to sign the ‘Save the Amazon and stand with the guardians of the forest’ petition. 

Which insight led to the creation of this piece of work?

We usually only realize the significant importance something has, after it’s gone. People, including ourselves, take things for granted quite easily: whether it’s a constant 4G connection, a famous monument on a square in Amsterdam or the Amazon Rainforest.

Can you share with us any alternative ideas (if any) for this campaign? Why was this idea chosen?  

Yes, we had other ideas, but we didn’t even share them internally. With this kind of briefing there’s only one idea worth presenting, the one where you know: “Ok, that’s the one!” There’s so many messages nowadays about climate change – which is a good thing – but it makes ‘standing out’ an even bigger challenge. Playing off an iconic monument that already stands out, helps in this case.

What was the greatest challenge that you and your team faced during development?

We had to produce a monument the size of a whale using eco-friendly materials and we had to take over one of Europe’s most crowded squares… unnoticed. Thank heavens we succeeded.

What did you enjoy most about seeing this campaign through? Did you learn anything new from the experience?

Without having permission of the same city council that previously removed the sign, it was as stressful as it was exciting to put these altered letters back in their original spot. It was astounding to see how a well-oiled machine of Greenpeace activists took over the idea we had in mind and on paper, and made it become a reality in such a splendid way.

Are there any specific causes your agency as a whole or you yourself hold near and dear? If so, tell us about them

We have a lot of causes that we hold dear, Greenpeace is certainly one of them. One of our others is an organ transplant charity, Reborn To Be Alive. In most of the campaigns we have made for them we got in touch with patients that were desperately waiting for an organ. Their positivism and attitude towards life is almost surreal and contagious.