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How Ukrainian ad agencies are joining the propaganda war

Kyiv-based Banda is one of a number of agencies creating heartbreaking creative work to raise global awareness and support for its country.

How Ukrainian ad agencies are joining the propaganda war
[Source Images: J_art/getty]

With Ukrainian cities being surrounded and bombarded by invading Russian troops, much has been rightly made about Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s skills as a social media communicator. Kyiv-based ad agency Banda has also been creating work to raise awareness and rally global support for Ukraine and its people. On Monday, the agency posted a video to Instagram with the hashtag #StandwithUkraine that is a compilation of heartbreaking war-zone images, and a cry for help.

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There are people huddling in underground subway stations, standing in front of tanks, rescuing others from wreckage; air-raid sirens blaring and footage labeled from just days ago of airstrikes hitting city buildings. The narrator is soft-spoken but strong: “Now is not about words. It’s about actions. About people who are ready to take action. Ukraine now is all of us.”

Back in 2014, the agency created a recruitment ad for the Ukrainian Armed Forces called “Each of Us,” which hits particularly hard today, as ordinary citizens are now taking up arms against the Russian invasion.

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On Wednesday, Banda posted a series of posters, most featuring a variation of the phrases “Act Now!” and “Stop Russia.” A few, though, echoed the plea of their country’s president for Ukraine to become a member of the European Union. And while EU president Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday that Ukraine is “one of us and we want them in the European Union,” it may be a much longer process.

While not related, the work echoes the sentiments of Zelenskyy since the Russian invasion began, urgently asking for more help from the West, and aiming to amp up public sentiment to empower Western governments to do so. On Wednesday, Ukraine’s head of the Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, imploring Western allies to act now in sending more military aid and weapons.

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Banda isn’t the only creative communications company using its capabilities to rally support for its country. Also this week, fellow Kyiv-based agency Tabasco reposted a Ukrainian Ground Forces ad it created in 2016, with the quote, “Glory to our Army, our Heroes!”

Also, an anonymous group of advertising and marketing professionals in Ukraine have started the project, PreventWW3. It calls on the creative communications industry to make work that will encourage local citizens to donate to help the wounded and refugees, persuade the NATO alliance to close airspace over Ukraine, and counter Russian misinformation.

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Another Kyiv-based firm is Depositphotos, a content platform that provides stock photos, graphics, and videos to news media and marketers. It’s aiming to combat Russian disinformation by releasing a free library of images for anyone to use, including news agencies and everyday people posting on social media. The collection, called “The truth about Russia’s war in Ukraine,” includes regularly updated images of the aftermath of violence, like bombed-out buildings, people taking shelter underground, empty grocery store shelves, and citizens volunteering to make Molotov cocktails.

Speaking of Molotov cocktails, one Ukrainian brewery is going beyond messaging and producing its own Molotov cocktails (taking a page from breweries around the word that, in the early days of the pandemic, switched production from beer to hand sanitizer amid a shortage). According to AFP, Lviv-based Pravda Beer Brewery is producing the projectile explosives with bottles featuring a custom label from one of its most popular beers, “Putin khuylo,” or “Putin Is A Jerk.”

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity.

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