Poetic title and beautiful black and white images; I guess however you would never imagine what they refer to. The highly aesthetic project “Return of the Ashes” actually is … a social campaign.
In 2014 the Forestry department of Thailand looked at their statistics and what they found was quite shocking: since 1985 the country suffered over 75.000 wildfires! They caused massive destruction over 34.000* acres per year and this is an equivalent of approximately 34.000.000 trees!
In the latest years wildfire has been a serious global problem destroying wood areas in extremely large scale. Especially in hot tropical climates, like this of Thailand, it is also a quite frequent accident. The main concern however was that 90% of them were caused by human and only 10% were natural. In addition to this disturbing issue, there has been another one in regards to their suppression – a shortage of firefighters and inadequate equipment.
Something had to be done urgently to increase public awareness about the threat of the wildfire in Thailand’s forests. The department turned for a partnership to the local company HHK Intertrade (a leader of imported goods on stationary and art supplies of world class brands) which in turn collaborated with the Swiss manufacturer of high quality writing and drawing instruments Caran D’Ache and the advertising company Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok, Thailand. The task was to draw the attention of the people to the escalating situation, to educate as well to engage them, and also to collect profit for new equipment for the firefighters to combat wildfires more effectively.
They came with a great idea on two levels.
The first target was to gather money through the selling of beautifully designed and packaged artisanal product by Caran D’ Ache. Using selected pieces of burning trees, barks, branches and leaves as a symbol of rebirth after the destruction, they produced limited edition sets of 6 charcoal pencils each. They were sold in the brand’s shops and online, and the funds were then donated to the firefighting department to increase the number of firefighters and supplying them with better equipment.
On the other hand, the team of Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok held an exhibition to raise public awareness by demonstrating the negative impacts of the increasing wildfires – upon the global climate, water resources, wildlife, soil quality and etc. With minimalist approach in the black and white palette they created stunning posters and installations to portray the problem, and exposing all facts and figures in form of visual data to engage deeply the people.
Did it have a positive outcome? According to the companies’ statement within two weeks all charcoal sets were sold out and the exhibition was visited by 200.000 people. Moreover, the exhibition became one of top 4 talks that people discussed about in Thailand for months. The most valuable result however was that the campaign provoked the government sector to be more rigorous in monitoring the incidents and held many training seminars for people in the forest areas to know how to control the incidents.
Click on the image below to see a short video about the campaign.
*there is a significant discrepancy in these numbers in different sources starting from 34.000 acres up to 59.000 acres, but I used these presented on the official site of the campaign.