Tweaking a Dictator, With a Remarkable Ad Campaign

The Outdoor Grand Prix at Cannes went to a campaign aimed at memorializing Robert Mugabe’s corruption.

Robert Mugabe ad

At this year’s Cannes Lions festival–the ad industry’s most prestigeous confab–the Outdoor competition had a particularly spicy mix of competitors. But the Grand Prix winner was awesome in its simplicity. The “Trillion Dollar Campaign”–by TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris’s South African office for The Zimbabwean newspaper–was aimed at wrongs committed by Robert Mugabe’s regime. So they plastered billboards with a potent artifact of Mugabe’s corruption and incompetence: The  Zimbabwean trillion-dollar bill, whose printing was the result of spiraling inflation.


The campaign was a bit more complex than a simple promo of The Zimbabwean. The newspaper is actually based in South Africa, after Mugabe exiled its publishers for exposing the corruption of his government. He then placed a 55% import tax on it, to make it unaffordable to average citizens. So the newspaper responded by trying to build up enough of a readership base in South Africa to subsidize its distribution in its home country.

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In Cannes, the Trillion-Dollar campaign narrowly beat other another Gold Lion-winner, created by BBH/N.Y for NYC&Co and Warner Brothers, to promote a new album by Oasis. No billboards here, however. Instead, the campaign hired New York street musicians to perform unreleased tracksfrom the new album. 

Read more about all the Outdoor winners at Cannes over at Creativity.

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.