Your Shot: Airbnb and VCCP Celebrate the Fall of the Berlin Wall
It’s tricky business for a brand to produce a worthy campaign around a truly moving issue. Everyone involved has to really be on point to strike the ideal tone otherwise you risk looking completely trivial and trite. The fall of the Berlin Wall is most certainly one of those issues – highlighted by the lack of brands that decided it was a good idea to engage its 25th anniversary on Sunday. Airbnb, though, was not one of those brands. They tasked VCCP Berlin to create a campaign centred around a really remarkable true story and, well, the end result is exactly on point. It’s touching, emotional, moving, it makes you smile – and it’s all inspired by an unbelievable true story. LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with the VCCP Berlin creative team to find out how they pulled it off.
LBB> What was the initial brief like from Airbnb and what did you think when you saw it?
VCCP> It all started last June when our Managing Director Robin Karakash came to us with some great news: "Guys,” he said, “Airbnb has this fantastic true story and they want us, as a Berlin-based agency, to grab it, make it ours and tell it for them.”
We all went nuts, of course! And not only because Airbnb is one of the companies shaping today and tomorrow’s world, but mainly because of the chance to reach the world with this human and moving true story. It somehow felt like we had something remarkably unique and universal in our hands that could reach the entire globe.
LBB> It’s such a poignant topic and time for the campaign to launch. How has working on it affected you personally?
VCCP> At VCCP Berlin, as you can probably guess, there are both - former ‘Easties’ and ‘Westies’. So everybody had something to say about the Berlin Wall. Whether it was our CD Sebastian Oehme or our younger German colleagues, they all had different experiences of that crucial episode in history. As expats ourselves, listening to our colleagues’ stories was extremely enriching and revealing. It felt like we were actually interviewing our colleagues more than conceptualizing ourselves!
LBB> I can imagine the research process for the campaign was quite emotional. What did it involve?
VCCP> From day one, Airbnb gave us lots of materials to work with - pictures and memorabilia that deeply touched us and helped a lot. By the time we discovered more and more details about the story, it all felt unrealistically perfect: two former guards from opposite sides getting to know each other years later. It was a great, heart-warming story so the main challenge for us was to define and decide on which treatment would fit best to tell that story. Sebastian, our Creative Director, had a clear vision to push that story in the most emotive way.
LBB>It’s such a moving story - and one that I’m sure many Berliners and others can relate to. What were the inspirations behind it and was it really fully true?
VCCP> Well, the story was there. And we interviewed all the people related to this tale. So we decided to go for animation, a format that allowed us to come up with the most crazy visuals and metaphors without compromising the credibility of the story. That’s how we came up with the Wall and Chain.
LBB> The online campaign also includes interviews with the former guards, Jorg and Kai. How was it working so directly with them?
VCCP> Interviewing the daughter Cathrine was fairly easy. With Jorg and Kai, oddly enough, it became quite tricky. Since they were the ones patrolling that wall, it felt difficult for them to open up directly to a bunch of new Berliners and explain their story. But we were very lucky to have an awesome team behind us to help make things happen. Big up to Noha Lahmy, Lisa Krack, Sebastian Oehme, Michael Opitz, Helena Korte, Philip Chhatwani, Alison Haly, Wiebke Dreyer and Ann-Kristin Sterba for their amazing support.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
VCCP> It was the first time we had worked on such a time-zone tango. The client is based in San Francisco while the animation studio, Psyop, is based in New York. There were some long and intense evenings and tonnes of e-mails and feedback made it over the Atlantic. But it was great to see how everyone had a similar vision on how to deliver the story. I guess it was the perfect balance between both American and Berlin tonalities.
LBB> And how about the most memorable?
VCCP> Meeting Jörg, Cathrine and Kai for the first time, at the launch party event, was a very special moment and there were lots of selfies, cuddles, hi-fives and laughs. With this project, we got to know so much about their lives and we certainly became very attached to each Wall and Chain character. Oh, and admiring the number of views we were getting on YouTube wasn’t a bad moment either. It felt great to see how people were responding to Jörg, Kai and Cathrine’s story.
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