Responses by Roberto Danino and Bianca Guimaraes, creative directors, BBDO New York
Background: Cyberbullying is an epidemic that’s sweeping the country. The CDC estimates that cyberbullying is the root cause of teen suicide. Victims often suffer in silence and don’t reach out for help. The goal was to show how easy it is to miss the signs and provide tools for victims of cyberbullying to deal with the situation, whether they are being bullied themselves or know someone who is being bullied.
Reasoning: We wanted people to experience how cyberbullying happens in real life. The idea was to have viewers blindsided by the mean messages and experience it the same way targets of cyberbullying do: on their phones, without any warning. Also, we wanted to make a film where the text messages completely change the story to show how cyberbullying is hard to see and how its consequences can be dire.
Challenges: Figuring out how to navigate around the misdirect, both in terms of the performances as well as the dialogue and story in general. We approached it as if we were making two different two-minute films: one about a girl who has a mysterious illness that no one seems to be taking seriously and one about a girl who’s being cyberbullied and is suffering in silence.
Favorite details: We had a powerful concept on hand, but no idea how people would respond to it. So, we’ve been proud of the positive reactions we’ve gotten. Since launch, we’ve received messages from teachers wanting to use the experience with their students, as well as parents saying they could relate to the film and sharing their stories with us. Most importantly, victims of cyberbullying felt as though the film brought awareness to what they go through and showed cyberbullying’s real consequences.
Specific demands: All the text messages were based on real messages that were sent to teens that ended up taking their own lives. The research part of the project was very difficult. The experience of cyberbullying can be devastating, and a few cruel words written in a text message can have a lasting effect on the lives of so many. The opposite is also true. A simple message to someone in need can make the biggest difference. We encourage everyone to exercise that.
Anything new: If you are working with the right group of people and everyone comes together, you can achieve things that seem unachievable. For example, there is no precedent to blending cinematic storytelling with text messaging, so we had to make it up as we went along. The idea was compelling and, at first, it seemed simple to pull off, but it proved to be a lot more challenging. It required us to constantly update the back-end and respond to issues in real time. It was not easy to pull off, but we were able to make it work and give a different dimension to the work.