December 2, 2015

Using war propaganda for peace

By

Adrian Ma

Adrian at Eurobest, Antwerp

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Alexander Smirnov is head of an agency called Tabasco in Kiev. In the agency world, he comes from a unique place, unlike anyone else I’ve encountered.Growing up with a dictatorship, where news was manipulated every day, he became adept at spotting propaganda and how dictators use it.

At Eurobest, he even shared his Dictator for Dummies rule book. Here they are:

  1. Control the media
  2. Create an enemy to unite against
  3. Feed the fear, so people don’t want to fight the enemy, and let the government do it

Following a bloody revolution, Ukraine is now free from its dictatorship, but violence stills exists amongst separatists who side with the Russians and those who don’t.This flares up on Ukrainian Victory Day, when extremists take advantage of this national spirit and the debate it creates.

In 2015, Alexander and a band of volunteer creatives formed the ‘Information Resistance’, where they used their understanding of propaganda to create a piece of content to promote peace for Victory Day.

This is it (he calls it a piece of propaganda for peace).

In case you missed it, the grandfather was wearing a Russian uniform while his grandson was fighting for the Ukrainian government. This video unites both sides of the conflict through this moving inter-generational story.

Being a volunteer project, they didn’t have budget to buy media space for this, but it proved so powerful on social media (the president even shared it) that all of the TV stations requested the content to broadcast. So they received complete coverage.

In 2015, there were no violent protests that Victory Day. It was the most peaceful Victory Day, ever.Alexander shared some inspiring lessons from his experience. These are:

  1. Even if you are small, you can have a big impact.
  2. Make truth your weapon. You can’t win over propaganda zombies, people don’t listen to facts, so your propaganda should be based on the truth of feelings. In this case, love and understanding
  3. Your truth needs to go viral in order to break through the walls of propaganda

Alexanda’s not much of a Twitter fan, so I’ve not included a link to his bio here. But here’s a link to his agency’s website, if you’d like to find out more.