Dramatic Save the Children Ad Shows Kids in War-Torn Areas as ‘Tough, Resilient’

Two youngsters survive a terrifying explosion in a town square, finding each other and escaping the mayhem—if only temporarily—through their own fantasy world in a heartbreaking new spot for Save the Children.

The public service announcement, shot in downtown Lebanon and surrounding areas last year, comes from director Martin de Thurah and production company Bacon via Oslo-based ad agency POL.

The two-minute film contrasts the harrowing environment of a war zone with a dreamy universe that two children conjure up as both distraction and defense mechanism.

Working from a brief “as simple as it was complex,” creatives aimed to inspire a new wave of donations for the global humanitarian organization “while portraying children in the way they deserve—as tough, resilient human beings,” according to Shirin Marlene Pakzamir, account manager at POL.

The soundtrack is a reimagined version of “Pure Imagination,” a beloved 1971 song made famous by Gene Wilder in the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Norwegian artist Frida Ånnevik performs the haunting new incarnation, continuing POL’s penchant for taking well-known music out of its familiar context and using it to set a gut-wrenching tone.

Drawing on real stories from youngsters in war-torn regions, creatives wanted to retell their experiences “with the respect they deserve,” Pakzamir said. “Throughout the process, we’ve had a strong focus on not selling the dignity of children in need, but by portraying them as what they really are—so much more than children in need.”

‘Survivors, fighters, optimists’

To move forward, the agency looked back at the name of the organization itself, stripping away the Save the Children brand to more closely examine the mission.

“What does it really mean to save a child? When saving children, you are saving so much more,” Pakzamir told Adweek. “You are saving survivors, fighters and optimists. You are saving their dreams, their future, their imagination, their friendships.”

The short film, dubbed “Save the Imagination,” is the agency’s follow-up to “Save the Survivors,” which premiered last fall. The first spot, from director Tomas Jonsgården through B-Reel Films, follows a brother and sister who escape their bombed hometown and search for safe haven. 

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