Switch on Ukraine! – To then do what?

by Andy Kozlov

I love promotional videos.

They can inspire like the 2010 World Humanitarian Day collaborative film shot in over 40 countries in under 9 weeks.

It was filmed by humanitarian staff and freelance filmmakers from around the globe (over 50 contributors in total) with all time donated with the goal of showing the enormous diversity of places, faces and endeavors of humanitarian aid workers in 2010.

They can also help a nation win a unique opportunity to host a global event. Look at Russia

Russia 2018 – Ready to Inspire.

with its Sasha’s Big Day promo. And now Russia is to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup™. Here is a  fascinating behind-the-scenes story about rebranding  Russia internationally in this and a number of other promos by a California-based firm Adore Creative.

I love promotional videos. But some ones are just hopeless waste of time and demand lots of traveling experience and international exposure to become an effective destination/experience marketing instrument.

The Switch on Ukraine! clip broadcast by the major European TV channels since last November is a good example of failed communication.

According to Borys Kolesnikov, Ukrainian Vice Minister responsible for the preparations for EURO 2012, the clip has as its major goal to familiarize the Europeans “with the ethnic flavor of the Ukrainian people, the country’s spirit of freedom and hospitality.” “Until recently, Ukraine used to be terra incognita for the majority of European citizens. With this promo  and its slogan ‘Switch on’ we are going to switch Ukraine on for the world: to enable foreigners to get to know it better and to ignite it in their hearts,” Mr Kolesnikov said. (See South African training for UkrainiansLufthansa Regional still gets Ukraine wrong and Euro-zabor)

The director Yulian Ulybin of the Shootgroup explained that the plot they came up with is a story of a foreign couple who travel through Ukraine for the first time in their lives. “They saw our country with their own eyes and opened it for themselves: a new, undiscovered, but modern country.” “The clip Switch on Ukraine! is a jump into our country’s unforgettable fairytale world. Nothing of this kind had ever been created in the promotion of Ukraine abroad until now. Ukraine’s location, with its magnificent natural landscapes, history and architectural heritage, traditions and mysteries of the Ukrainian people are known to very few people in the world.” Mr Ulybin said.

Nice words, noble aspirations – both Kolesnikov and Ulybin, gentlemen! But where’s the substance? For many Europeans, Ukraine is not terra incognita at all. It is part of Russian cultural space. And as such it is, for many, it is non-European: different and enticing.

If we are trying to showcase Ukraine as a unique nation, I guess I want to see Ukraine’s uniqueness more clearly in the promo. Don’t show me those generic urban or nature scenes that dominate Switch on Ukraine!

Make me want to come to Ukraine, entice me, a well-traveled European, by your uniqueness. Show me why I should care about the sports event that you host.

How are your boats different from the ones in Turkey? – The sea is the same.

What is there for me at your ethnic bonfire?

Ukraine is a modern country and I can see a girl skating at an open public space to prove that –  but again what a difference does it make for me? If I want to cross your country from West to East, can I do it by rail in a ‘modern’ (Western European) way – within several hours?

Don’t promise me do be amazed by your ethnic tableware – I have probably seen more remarkable artwork in Mumbai or Marrakesh.

It’s true that, twenty years after independence, Ukraine has lots of firsts to cover. First ambitious promo for the international audience, first time hosting a continent-wide championship as a free nation, etc.

In this relatively short period of time, Ukrainian creatives haven’t had enough time to travel the world, learn the languages, mingle with their peers from other continents. And it is clearly seen in Switch on Ukraine! –  despite the promos obvious grandeur, the clip remains highly abstract in its imagery and thus comes out with a faded message.

By all means, this promo confirms the necessity to switch it  on!: switch the world on for Ukraine, in the first place.

You can write to Andy Kozlov on a.kozlov@steppesinsync.com

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2 thoughts on “Switch on Ukraine! – To then do what?”

  1. I noticed that the majority of the clips came from the West of Ukraine, totally forgetting that Donetsk is the venue for up to the Semi-final of Euro 2012. The promontory, Sleeping Bear, in Crimea did not feature at all, and neither did the Swallow’s Nest castle. I think I caught one scene of Odessa Opera House, and nothing about the Potemkin steps. Even Kiev appears to have only been represented by Lavre, and no Krashetyk or anything. The Ukrainian people like their barbecues, with “shashlik” and vodka and wine – where were they?
    No, this was badly thought out by someone who seems to not know Ukraine at all. My holiday snaps tell people more about the real Ukraine.

    1. Well Lain, this is this whole question about what exactly is a nation’s image, and the skill of a clip director is precisely that – incorporate the most obvious and do in an original way. Ukrainian creatives have a long way to go. I agree with you. Andy Kozlov

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