JWT India and Amsterdam collaborate on campaign to preserve indigenous cultures

The India and Amsterdam offices of J Walter Thompson have collaborated to work on ‘Blink and they are gone’, a campaign to preserve indigenous cultures and people by British photographer Jimmy Nelson.

The campaign launches with a film that uses 1,500 photographs taken by Nelson over three decades featuring the Huli Wigmen from Papua New Guinea, the Kazakhs of Mongolia and the Wodaabe from Chad, among others. It was directed by J Walter Thompson India’s chief creative officer Senthil Kumar, working closely with the agency’s global creative lead Bas Korsten who is based in Amsterdam.

Speaking to Mumbrella about how he came to be involved with the project, Kumar said: “During the meeting of our global creative council, our creative head for Europe shared a project he was working on with Jimmy. The discussion was around how do we get more people to see this.

“I stepped up and said that we can make a film with the images. It would be the best form of expression since people were not searching for these images, specifically.”

Kumar pointed to a film for Nike that he had created and directed when JWT handled the sportswear brand in India. ‘Make Every Yard Count’ for Nike was built around a similar concept of weaving a coherent narrative together from disparate images.

Kumar said: “Jimmy saw the Nike ad and told me ‘I want you to make an even better film than that one.’”

The final film was culled from over 100,000 images that Nelson shared with JWT and took three months to create. Kumar said: “The difficult part was stitching images together since we couldn’t do fresh shoots.” With relatively few images that allowed for direct animation, some of the still images were modified in post production.

Kumar: The film was a literally eye-opening journey

Speaking about working on the campaign, Kumar said: “It was literally an eye-opening journey. I found some of the aboriginal tribes in Australia to be pretty similar to tribes in South India.” Responding to the critique that Nelson’s images themselves were part of the problem and could cause a decline in the habitats and way of life of indigenous people, Kumar said: “I think it is an empty critique. He spends month with the people before he shoots them to earn their respect and convince them. Also, if people don’t know about a thing, it is easy to make it disappear. Through the campaign, we will know these people existed.”

The film marks the beginning of a wider campaign through 2019, which will see Nelson and JWT work to raise awareness of indigenous cultures. Nelson will also publish a 525 page photography book which will allow for a deep dive into traditions of indigenous people via VR and 360 degree films.

Nelson said: “If we let the cultural identity of the indigenous people disappear now, it will be lost forever. And if this happens, we will lose one of the most valuable assets – our rich human cultural diversity and heritage.”

JWT’s global creative lead and creative partner JWT Amsterdam Bas Korsten said: “Jimmy wanted to start a global discussion on the preservation of cultural identity. A discussion like the one we instigated with The Next Rembrandt project two years ago. I’m really happy that JWT India’s Senthil Kumar and I can contribute to this unique project with a mix of creativity and technology.”


Client: Jimmy Nelson
Photographer: Jimmy Nelson
PR manager: Marit de Hoog
Project manager: Coco Box
Agency: JWT India & JWT Amsterdam
Director: Senthil Kumar (chief creative officer, JWT India)
Creative Team: Bas Korsten & Senthil Kumar
PR director: Jessica Hartley
Production house: Small Fry Productions
Editors : Priyank Premkumar, Dev Nayak and Keven Menezes
Music director : Dhruv Ghanekar
Vocal percussion : Taufiq Qureshi
Sound engineer Joseph George
Original soundscapes: Various Indigenous Artists
Post producer: Jebastin Anton


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