You have love a stunt like this. If you had looked up in the sky in Belarus back on July 4th, you might have seen 876 teddy bears parachuting down to Minsk holding messages in support of free speech and democracy. For weeks the drop was met with skepticism by people outside of Belarus and repeated denials by the government, which is one of the most repressive in Europe. Turns out it that Studio Total, a Scandinavian ad agency pulled it off using a small private plane and relying on the incompetence of the Belarus government. From Aljazeera:
Confirmation came on Thursday from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a meeting on the modernisation of the country’s armed forces, according to Russian news agency Interfax. “This plane was discovered in time, but why didn’t the senior officials stop the flight?” asked Lukashenko. “Where did the fault lie? In these bungling officials or some error in the airspace control system?”
Chartered by Studio Total, which bills itself as “northern Scandinavia’s most notorious ad agency”, the single-engine aircraft - piloted by a co-founder of Studio Total - crossed over the Lithuanian border on July 4, dropping 876 teddy bears on the capital Minsk and the small town of Ivyanets.
For weeks, Belarus’ government denied any plane illegally entered the country’s airspace that morning, claiming that videos of the airdrop released by Studio Total were faked.
Meanwhile, on July 13 the KGB – Belarus’ state security service – detained Anton Suryapin, a 20-year-old journalism student, after he posted a picture of one of the teddy bears to a website he runs called Belarusian News Photos. Suryapin is being held by the KGB under Article 371, Part 3 of Belarus’ Criminal Code, which concerns “organising illegal migration”, according to Amnesty International. The charge can carry a jail sentence of up to seven years.
Needless to say, teddy bears descending on the capital city of Minsk probably doesn’t do much to help free speech, or even raise awareness of the lack of it in Belarus. But it surely revealed the country’s vulnerability and is a embarasssment to the leadership.
While you’re at it, take a look at the Studio Total website and their advertising philosophy:
Studio Total™ is a small swedish advertising agency with one humble goal: to revolutionize advertising. We do it by not buying ads. To buy an ad is like paying a friend to listen to you. It won’t help your reputation in the long run. In 2012 the brands that don’t get people talking will die.