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Walls of Division and Derision

Donald Trump’s obsession with his “beautiful wall” along the lengthy 3,145 kilometres reach of the Mexico and the USA border, spurned many reactionary expressions of derision, and rekindled memories of the human suffering and fatalities the Berlin Wall caused during its 28 year long existence.

The breaking down of the wall that separated East and West Germany, was a momentous event that dominated international news channels at the time and naturally would inspire relevant analogies, metaphors, apposite symbolism, and acts of bravery being recalled in advertising communication scenarios for years to come.

1. Meat & Livestock Australia, Make Lamb Not Walls

Advertising Agency: The Monkeys, part of Accenture Interactive, Melbourne, Australia

Set in the year 2031, the ‘Make Lamb Not Walls’ scenario imagines an Australia criss-crossed with tall, concrete state barriers, that recall the Berlin Wall’s divisive social distancing and separation of families and friends.

Spearheaded by an amusing long-form storytelling commercial, directed by filmmaker Ariel Martin, the integrated lamb promotion campaign urges all Australians to break down the walls that disconnect them, and reunite around their nationally shared love of lamb barbecues.

At the 2021 Mumbrella Media and Marketing Awards at Darling Harbour, Sydney, ‘Make Lamb Not Walls’ won the coveted prizes of ‘TV Advertising of the Year’ and the ‘Advertising Campaign of the Year’.

2. DIESEL, Make Love Not Walls

Advertising Agency: Anomaly, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Directed by American photographer and filmmaker David LaChapelle, this topical and vibrant commercial about segregationist walls and prejudice, features the moody and ambient strains of “Higher Love” by Danish singer and songwriter Alex Vargas, and stars Ukrainian ballet dancer, Sergei Polunin.

The ‘rainbow tank’ featured in the commercial, Diesel aims to use and promote as a unifying symbol of hope on a tour to New York, London, Berlin, Shanghai and Tokyo.

3. 84 Lumber, The Journey

84 Lumber is an American building materials supply company named after the Pennsylvanian village of 84 where it was founded, and is headquartered.

Advertising Agency: Brunner, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Superbly directed by American filmmaker Cole Webley, ‘The Journey’ is an emotive, long-form story scenario, about a Mexican mother and her young daughter setting off on a journey towards the US border. Along the way, her daughter touchingly collects bits of fabric for stitching together to make a small American flag.

After their long and arduous journey, they eventually arrive at the border and all seems lost when they are confronted by Donald Trump’s proposed high wall. But hope is rekindled when they find imposing wooden doors in the wall that symbolically open for them. The commercial ends with the words; “The will to succeed is always welcome here”.

Intended for airing during the the live broadcast of the 2017 Super Bowl Championships, the commercial’s message about fortitude in seeking opportunities for a better life and access to legal humanitarian asylum, was however, considered to be too politically contentious at that time, and a comprise was reached to air a shorter version that ended with; “To be continued”, and directed people to 84 Lumber’s website to view the final conclusion.

4. BMW, The Small Escape

Advertising Agency: Jung von Matt, Hamburg, Germany

In 1964 the German Democratic Republic, placed East Berlin’s Border Troops , under orders to shoot perpetrators attempting to cross the border illegally into West Berlin.

‘The Small Escape’ scenario is based on a true story of formidable, life-endangering daring, by West Berlin mechanic Klaus-Günter Jacobi’s ingenious plan to smuggle his friend Manfred Koster out of East Berlin, without arousing the suspicion of the guards at the ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ border-crossing.

He devised a way to create a concealed space in his tiny BMW Isetta, to stow away a grown adult. A remarkable, if not miraculous engineering achievement, that even today is hard to believe could successfully hide a 1.70 m man in a vehicle that is a mere 1.37 m wide, and 2.29 m long.

Filmed in Budapest, Hungary, and directed by filmmaker Alex Feil, the dramatic recreation of the escape to freedom, makes for compelling viewing.

5. Allan Gray Investment Management, The Letter

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, Cape Town, South Africa

‘The Letter’ commercial has a personal poignancy for me with its insightful message analogy.

Shortly after the wall came down I was privileged to participate in a Leo Burnett Worldwide Conference in East Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie was still standing, but with the notorious East German Border Guards hiding in their checkpoint cubicle, probably fearful of their future, there were no passport checks or stop barriers.

Sections of the graffiti-covered border wall as far as the eye could see, were also still standing.

The soulless austerity and drab façades of East Berlin buildings, still pockmarked with bullet holes from World War II, it’s sad, paltry shop offerings and minimal street lighting at night, were a revelation for me.

The city was literally and figuratively without colour, and the contrast with the pulsating vibrancy of West Berlin could not be greater.

The many media stories about the successful efforts of family and friends to rapidly reconnect with loved ones, the minute the wall came down, were however, heart-warming.

Filmmaker Kim Geldenhuys in 90 seconds has captured the mood and tone of the time with remarkable monochromatic visual accuracy.