International outrage at how waste plastic is killing the seas.
The Philippines is emerging as a global regional hotspot for advertising growth — with outstanding creativity a key driver.
One leading performer is Dentsu Jayme Syfu. The Makati City-based agency consolidated its status by winning the Cresta outdoor Grand Prix for the Greenpeace 'Dead Whale' project, crowning a year of attention for the campaign.
The campaign, featuring a giant artwork of a whale made from plastic waste, was indeed so outstanding that it is set to have a 'phase two' in 2019 that may involve many 'dead whales' worldwide.
The background for the winning work was not an easy inspiration: the client wanted to get a message across to leaders attending a summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). On the face of it, a hard nut to crack.
The brief sought to drive for greater action to deal with worsening levels of plastic pollution. This was against a background of beached sea creatures often dying with little outcry, most recently a sperm whale whose stomach had been found full of plastic. The Philippines rank as the third worst nation in the world in mishandling waste.
The agency's response was to create a dramatic 15m-long sculpture in the shape of a blue whale, apparently beached on one of the most polluted shores. It was a sculpture made entirely from plastic waste. The dramatic intervention and engagement with the public stimulated a wave of social media and then traditional media coverage. Even the holed-up ASEAN leaders had to sit up and take notice.
Below, Biboy Royong, Creative Director at Dentsu Jayme Syfu and one of the originators of the project, answers Cresta's questions in an in-depth exclusive insight into the making of the whale and its ongoing impact.
How did the creative idea start? What was the creative journey from the brief to the sculpture and then the greatsocial media outplay?
IDEATION & PLANNING
We've been seeing washed ashore dead animals in the news for several years and we realised that it has become a very serious issue. The Philippines is a country composed of 7,100 islands. So the odds of seeing dead animals on the shore and in the news has been increasing. Coincidentally, we learned from Greenpeace that globally, we rank third among countries with the most number of plastic wastes thrown into the oceans. So we felt that we needed to do something about it and 2017 was the right time.
The Philippines was the chair of the 2017 ASEAN Summit, and Greenpeace wanted to take advantage of this opportune time to call on ASEAN members to take concrete measures against plastic pollution — such as banning single-use plastic packaging, strengthening policy on waste management, enforcing international regulations on marine debris, and regulating plastic use and production at source.
Greenpeace needed to visualise the worsening case of plastic pollution in a way that will first catch the attention of the public, then shock them with the truth. After gathering insights on how people reacted to news of beached whales, we decided to recreate a situation where they would feel the same empathy. Only this time, it's empathy followed by a shocking discovery that also serves as a wake-up call. Greenpeace has very limited budget support. That's why the strategy taken was to create a disruptive, monumental execution that will effectively spread the message on the worsening case of plastics pollution.
The Dead Whale was, in itself, art and advocacy in one, a realistic dramatisation of a giant problem that needed dramatic and immediate solutions.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
The very first thing in our minds was to make sure the whale was designed as one whole installation, with every bit of plastic securely attached, to make sure no trash would be washed back to the ocean.
We did research on artworks made of plastic materials or plastic wastes and we found a bunch of them. Some artists used available plastic wastes, some went to the hassle of collecting trash from around their area to put together as a sculpture or installation. All the artworks we've seen were put in a gallery or in a special location, such as a park, as a display.
Our 'Dead Whale' was different because we decided to put it on the shore of a beach to make it look like a real beached whale. It was a stunt. Our objective was to surprise people around the area, and at the same time raise awareness on the dangers of throwing plastics into the ocean. The location was a beach in Naic, Cavite. It is part of Manila Bay, which is considered as one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country.
The 'whale' was constructed on site, around 150 feet away from the actual spot, on a vacant lot that we covered with sacks so no one would notice it.
We made a miniature whale that we presented to Greenpeace Philippines. It was our guide in deciding the type of plastic materials to use for each part of the whale.We also agreed on the final position and size of the whale. We agreed on a 50 feet length with a height of 10 feet. But when we realised that we could maximise the vacant lot where we were constructing the whale, we set the final length at 73 feet.
We realised that if the whale should appear as if it is starting to decompose, then we can play with the texture and make it look a bit slimy.
For the whale's colours, we decided to use the actual colour of the plastic. We did not use paint. We chose the plastics' use based on their colour. The blue sacks; black, grey, and white trash bags; and black, white, and red strings/straws went to the skin. The twisted white sacks went to the underbelly. The PET bottles were for the 'baleen' teeth. The innards were red net sacks used for packing onions, filled with PET bottles. Basically, all the red plastics were used as the innards. The trash coming from the mouth consisted of assorted plastic wastes. We stuffed the installation with 60 kilos worth of plastic materials. The plastic whale itself is another 100 kilos.
Beforehand, we designed a 3D model of the whale to decide the final position and placement on the shore. We chose the best spot on the shore and measured the water level, then marked the part where the tail would be submerged in water on a high tide.
We transferred the plastic whale on the actual spot the night before the reveal. It took us three hours to lift and secure it. We had to dig in the sand to make the whale look like a real beached whale. Then to secure it, the lead carpenter placed sand inside the whale to prevent it from being washed back to the water.
The sculpture was unveiled on 11 May 2017, on the shores of one of the most polluted waters in the country, the Manila Bay.
The majority of the public thought it was real! Everyone was empathetic to the dead whale, and most people not just reposted photos or news articles; they made long captions protesting the use of plastics and encouraging their social media friends and followers to refuse plastic. The media definitely made the right headline of “the dead whale's wake-up call” because everyone was pledging their support.
Awareness was the main objective of the campaign, which was fitting for the ASEAN Summit on Coastal and Marine Development being held in the Philippines at that time.
Its viral effect both online and in traditional print media spurred conversation on our marine life and the worsening case of plastic pollution in the Philippines. Media icons and celebrities helped spread the message of #RefusePlastic to tie the “Dead Whale” campaign back to the real issue—plastic pollution.
People use to ignore news of dead whales washing up on Philippine shores. It took a fake dead whale for people to start talking about the issue and sharing the message on social media.
This reaction influenced ASEAN leaders to commit to elevate the coastal and marine environment protection bid to the next ASEAN Summit, which happened last November 2017.
The campaign had ZERO media spend but got a total of1.5 billionimpressions in over 100 countries. Top news sites covered the news: CNN, The Telegraph, People's Daily China, EuroNews, ADN40 Mexico, ARTE 28 France, Nation TV Thailand, Vinhlong TV Vietnam, and more.
It was featured in over 1,600 unique sites all over the world.
What happened to the 'whale' (and its waste) afterwards?
After three days the sculpture was dismantled by Greenpeace. All the plastics used were sent to recycling organisations. Greenpeace was present from the location hunt, to the construction of the sculpture, to the unveiling, exhibit period, and the dismantling to make sure no waste went back to the water.
How has the success influenced you and your colleagues in thinking about making creative ideas go viral?
The one best thing we learned from the campaign was, when the idea is big, the execution is simple, the right medium is used, there's a very clear message, and the issue is very local yet very global, then you'll surely have a story people will share.
The Dead Whale proved to be a very popular campaign, and one can see why. Almost monthly, or even weekly, we are bombarded by news of plastic pollution and how it chokes communities, the planet and its inhabitants, and how it poisons almost all living creatures, including humans. The Dead Whale has brought Greenpeace back into the conversation of plastic pollution, as for a while they had been out of this campaign. It was a good 'reentry' campaign for Greenpeace, and it solidified their stature as a global NGO that can bring substantial expertise and resource in the fight against plastic pollution. The Dead Whale set a new standard in Greenpeace's communications work, not only in the Philippines, but in many countries where Greenpeace operates. Some offices, such as the Greenpeace East Asia office, made their own video from our footage, while others, such as Greenpeace's Greek and Spanish offices, made their own replicas. Globally, it has been the 'face' of Greenpeace's plastics campaign. And it reminded Greenpeace how their communication campaigns should be — grounded and should be understood and seen by our target audiences.
After the initial spectacular coverage around the time of the 2017 ASEAN leaders conference, has there been any further follow up work with Greenpeace to keep the pressure up for action?
Greenpeace always has something going on. They never run out of campaigns. We can't deny the fact that bureaucracy in the government is constant so Greenpeace continues the fight.
Right now, Greenpeace is working on something to amplify the Dead Whale to reach more people. It is like a phase two. We call it'The Dead Whale Movement'. It is composed of several efforts that are geared toward sustaining the impact of the'Dead Whale' campaign, like branding some of their campaign materials with the image of the dead whale. The awareness has to be continued. The highlight of the movement at present is the“localisation” of the whale sculpture. Several NGOs and institution have asked for our permission to construct their own version of the whale. A couple of them will be seen in 2019 in two Asian countries.
The idea of doing several 'dead whales' after the 'Dead Whale' campaign never really occurred to us.Several countries- Spain, Malta, Italy, Lebanon – expressed interest in doing a similar project andconsulted with us on the possibility of doing their own versionin their respective shores.We made a manual and shared it with them. They felt people need to experience the stunt first hand.Seeing an actual artwork of a 'dead' whale may encourage people to explore it, touch it, see how the plastic wastes were carefully selected, placed and fitted on a particular part of the sculpture.It may give people a certain sense of how it might feel like to actually witness a real dead whale killed by plastic wastes — killed by us.
For full agency credits and all Cresta 2018 winners, click here