Inside Hegarty's first global cinema ad

'The first global cinema ad' uses humour to send a serious message to the UN, Kate Magee writes.

End poverty, fight inequality, promote peace and tackle climate change by 2030. They sound like the aspirations of a Miss World contestant.

But, on Friday, 193 world leaders will gather at the United Nations headquarters to ratify 17 ambitious new "Global Goals" that are designed to do just that. 

This moment of collective solidarity is what Sir John Hegarty has chosen to dramatise in the film he has created for Project Everyone, which aims to raise awareness of the goals to ensure politicians keep their promises. 

Project Everyone is the brainchild of the film director and Comic Relief co-founder Richard Curtis. The campaign aims to reach seven billion people in seven days and will involve activity across social media, TV, radio, print and in schools. 

Celebrities who have endorsed Project Everyone include: Ashton Kutcher, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jennifer Lawrence, Beyoncé and Stephen Hawking.

The campaign’s centrepiece is "the first-ever global cinema ad", which will be premièred in New York tonight. It goes live in 30 countries on Saturday, thanks to free space offered by Sawa, the global cinema advertising association.

Hegarty wrote and art directed the spot, working with producers at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Aardman and one of Aardman’s directors, Darren Dubicki. 

It shows the moment the Global Goals are ratified. Hegarty’s twist is that all the world leaders in the film are represented by their country’s animal – the UK as a lion, Ban Ki-moon as a tiger etc. 

Despite the serious message, the ad is humorous. At a press conference in Cannes, Hegarty said this is because "humour is a wonderful way of communicating".

"It’s very easy to depress people, but you learn more and get more action when you get people smiling. That works much better than just shocking them," Hegarty continued. "Horror and deprivation might win with juries in Cannes, but it doesn’t win with the people out there." 

Curtis shared this view, adding that when he wrote sitcoms, "if you ever wanted to plant information, you had to do it with a joke. That’s the only way people would remember it."

So here’s a humorous question for adland. The first character to feature in the ad is a llama, chosen because Hegarty finds them "very funny". But Curtis quipped that Hegarty looks a bit like the llama. Does he? Watch the spot tomorrow and you can make up your own mind. 

Q&A: Sir John Hegarty

How did you get involved with the project?
Cheryl Wannell, the general manager at Sawa, asked me in December if I would lead the creative drive on it. Why wouldn’t you want to be involved? It’s a great opportunity, a brilliant cause and I’ve always been passionate about cinema. It’s one of the media that really helped Levi’s establish itself as a brand. It has always been a fascinating opportunity for creative people. There’s lots of talk now about the screen size of different phones; well, cinema is the mother of all screens. 

When did you come up with the idea?
I met Richard Curtis and talked to him about what he wanted – a film with global appeal. I created the ad and wrote the script. It took about three weeks playing around with it. I thought: wouldn’t it be great to show that moment when the vote is taking place? It’s a wonderfully uplifting moment, particularly in a fragmented world. And then I thought each country could be represented by their animal, which shows the characteristics, personalities and beliefs of each country. Then it becomes funny. I worked on it over Christmas – I just want you all to know that – and presented my idea to Richard on 10 January. 

What was it like presenting an idea to Curtis?
Presenting to another creative person is great because they understand the process and what you’re going through. He liked the idea and its energy but, quite rightly, he wanted to think about it. He called me a week later – after having shown it to Bono from U2 – and said he really liked it. 

How did you pick the soundtrack?
The music was by Peter Gabriel. Every film has a rhythm to it – it’s an indefinable thing. The music has got to work with the film’s rhythm. 

Talk us through the animation process.
Aardman predominately does cartoon characters, but I didn’t want it to be cartoony. I wanted the animals to feel real but to act in a humorous way. So we started from the animals, then made them funny. It was wonderful to work with Aardman. Often with people of that stature, they will just call you up when they finish it. But we worked closely on it. 

The ad uses humour to impart a serious message. Why did you take that tone?
Richard didn’t want something that was riddled with worthiness. He is the man who came up with the idea of putting a red nose on your face, after all. It’s very easy to come up with something that makes people feel guilty, that adds to the misery around the world. You see so much cause-related work that makes you feel that if you don’t do something right now, the world is going to end. I’m not trivialising the issues, but we wanted to speak to people’s imaginations – particularly teenagers, who become the naggers on these issues. 

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