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The most ingenious responses to the UN’s Covid-19 creative open brief

Two months ago, the United Nations (UN) issued an open brief to the creative community. The challenge was simple: the UN needed creative thinkers to produce eye-catching public service announcements (PSA) that translate public health messages into something easy-to-understand for people across the globe. 

Why? The UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Strategy Hub identified it was nigh on impossible to produce the masses of localized communication materials needed to halt Covid-19 on its own – and needed a quick solution.

Rising to the occasion, the creative call-to-arms garnered more than 17,000 submissions in two weeks, from 143 countries, in 20 different languages.

Covering six messaging areas (personal hygiene, physical distancing, know the symptoms, spread kindness, myth-bust, and donate) the work presented ranges from illustrations to animation, radio scripts to live-action film.  

Next month, attendees to The Drum's Can Do festival will hear from Dawda Jobarteh, global head of the UN's SDG Strategy Hub about what he learned from the experience. He will be joined by Talenthouse co-founder Maya Bogle, whose community helped support the effort.

Ahead of the virtual event, The Drum has handpicked the most ingenious work creative minds conjured up in response. 

Personal Hygiene 



Diego Silva: Don't wait for the corona

Inspired by the New York graphic artist Keith Harring, this simple comic raises awareness about personal hygiene in a colourful and metaphorical way. 



Barış Cihan Peşmen: #WashHand

In a simple way, this work succinctly spells out the dangers that may arise if people are not careful with hygiene – using the grenade motif to highlight the instant danger that could be deadly.

Physical Distancing 

Video of Physical Distancing



Fuzzco: In Practice: Physical Distancing 

Mimicking the style of an old-fashioned PSA or old educational video, this short film illustrates the importance physical distancing to flatten the curve. Stressing the importance of staying home, it explains what it means to keep a safe physical distance from others if you need to go out.

The visual metaphor of a spray bottle and a 6ft radius, shows how coughing and sneezing can release droplets into the air that may contain the virus. 




Rafa Ferro: Covid - Stay Home

Inspired by the iconic Jaws movie poster, this work relates the coronavirus to the human-eating great white shark in the film. 

It works to make people aware of staying at home. Further, it is in memory of the actress Lee Fierro, who starred in the movie and sadly died after complications with Covid-19.



 Deepesh TP: Physical Distancing 

By drawing figures queuing on a receipt - who are demonstrating social distancing rules - this work stresses that to continue paying our bills and to carry on putting food on our tables, people need to ensure they abide by the rules. 

Know the Symptoms 

Video of Studio Plankton - Corona Symptoms



Studio Plankton: Covid-19 Symptoms

This animation illustrates in a compelling way the three symptoms of Covid-19 - fever, cough, and short breath - and advises people to seek their doctor if any should arise. 



Philippe Mathieu: Know the symptoms

An ode to the modernist painter Picasso, this work highlights the symptoms directly, alongside a glimpse of humor.


Video of Fake News Spread The Truth



Sebãstiao Assis: Fake News Spread The Truth

With misinformation about the coronavirus spreading fast, the 'Spread the Truth' project created fake news to kill myths about the pandemic. 

Video of Myth-busting



Ben Clarke: Misinformation Can Kill

Considering trending coronavirus myths, this set of ads highlight the truth within them to prompt people to fact check before spreading and sharing.

One version is specifically aimed at the forwarding groups on Whatsapp so it can be used to directly target the source of the fake information. 



Azlif Mohamed: Myth-busting

This work clearly illustrates - the more accurate information we seek about the virus, the less panic-stricken people will be with an informed state of mind.

Spread Kindness 



This illustration beautifully captures the essence of spreading kindness. 

Adam Niklewicz: Kindness contagion



Futerra: Spread Kindness

Created by social-good agency Futerra, it used Twitter’s open-sourced, license-free twemojis - globally-recognized symbols - to connect beyond written languages, literacy levels, socioeconomic status, and ages, fostering universal understanding and widespread adoption.

These new-age hieroglyphics work to connect people in a digital age, with a nod to collective ancestry when we used images instead of words to tell important stories. 




While a lot of the world is able to work from the comfort of their home, the frontline is still having to travel and work in uncomfortable situations - costing the frontline money to do their essential work. The poster asks people to donate the money already spent on season tickets and direct debits to those that need it most - to keep the frontline on track.



Sina Hartmann: Leave No One Behind

This piece reminds viewers that not everybody lives in the luxury of being able to go into home quarantine. It asks people to consider homeless people and to help them get through this crisis. 

To find out more about The Drum Can Do Festival register your interest here or contact Lynn Lester, The Drum’s director of events for more details.

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