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'Telling the Story' of UN Refugees

It's not often that a print ad captures my attention and imagination, but a recent campaign designed by BBDO Toronto in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) did just that. The ad was in a recent edition of Canadian Living Magazine, and featured a photo of three refugees standing in a sandstorm, with nothing but a few parcels and the clothes on their backs. The tagline literally stopped me in my tracks, and I wondered what story the advertiser was trying to tell. The copy was at total odds with the desperate mood of the photo, and I found myself drawn into the story and compelled to learn more.

The copy reads:

"refugees are so lucky..They have no idea how much it costs to renovate a house these days. Brazilian hardwood. Stainless steel appliances. Kitchen backsplash at $12.55 per square foot. Their home furnishings tend to be a little more basic. Tarps. Rope. Cardboard. Anything that can help protect from the harshness of the elements. And give them a fighting chance at survival.

What we take for granted 21 million people wish they could have back. Please give to the UN Refugee Agency. Visit unhcr.ca."


Talk about a powerful message. The campaign is going global and includes a series of TV and print ads designed to raise awareness about the plight of more than 20 million refugees.

What was interesting about the ad is that it drew me into the refugee experience by contrasting their lifestyle against our own. In contrast to the chaotic world of a refugee, our problems seem so insignificant. The tagline was brilliant. I wondered how refugees could even possibly be referred to as "lucky", and I was compelled to learn more.

Patrick Scissons, VP, Associate Creative Director, BBDO Toronto said: “We’ve all seen the news reports and images of refugees around the world, but the challenge in telling their stories is that their experiences are so far removed from our daily lives. Now imagine coming home after a long day at work to find that all your personal possessions and the home you know have been taken from you. This is an experience we can all relate to and we used this as our starting point for the campaign so people could begin to understand what refugees around the world go through on a daily basis."

The campaign truly highlights the power of advertising to tell a story. With the creation of this campaign, BBDO Toronto and the UNHCR have taken a huge step in the battle towards global tolerance, compassion and understanding. By drawing us into the refugee experience, they have succeeded in making us co-creators in a plot to eliminate the global refugee crisis.   



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