Polluted rivers inspire: TBWA wins Cannes’ bronzes

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Nanette Franco-Diyco

HOW CAN POLLUTED rivers be inspiring? They are all too far removed from the shimmering blue waters where our stunning sunsets descend and leave us awed, cognizant of our Creator. These are “rivers in Manila which were declared dead, contaminated with silt, crude oil, heavy metals, algae, and biological wastes.”

Polluted rivers inspire: TBWA wins Cannes’ bronzes

This declaration exploded during the Philippine International Rivers Summit held in Iloilo City in 2012. The event served as a “global platform for action on various environmental, economic and social issues on helping rivers and river basins.”

Leave it to the creativity of TBWA\Santiago Mangada Puno make beauty out of pollution. Creative director Bryan Siy asked himself what could make you keep looking at these rivers — instead of cringing and getting the waste and pollutants out of your sight en punto?

Slowly but surely, Mr. Siy and the TBWA team found themselves truly interested “in raising awareness and concern for Manila’s most polluted rivers, like Cainta, Tullahan, Marikina and Taguig Rivers.”

Let’s face it, these rivers were dead — brought about by biological waste, algae, crude oil, silt, and heavy metals.

The group realized that the colors of the rivers were dependent on the nature of the pollutants in them. These included varied shades of brown including a deep brown and a greenish hue, and blacks and greys, sepia, burnt sienna. Thus bloomed the idea of images on canvases, still bare and naked — but getting there.

Here comes the unbelievably hard part that required not only physical energy but a lot of faith that kept them going.

Water samples were collected, and, guided by a scientist, these were decontaminated “using an autoclave.” Mr. Siy related how the samples were oven-dried for 24 hours, inclusive of endless attacks on their sense of smell. The resulting pigments were the materials to be used by the artists. Characteristically creative, the custom pigments were simply called Dirty Watercolor. Call it brutal honesty in advertising.

Then came the all-important hunt for artistic collaborators. Call it the litmus test. With Filipino artists like JC Vargas, Toti Cerda, Luigi Almuena, Allan Clerigo, John de Vera, Kean Barrameda, Van Isunza, Renee Jose, Ferd Failano accepting the quaint challenge — driven by TBWA’s push to help raise awareness regarding the tragic plight of our very own rivers, the master plan to get a once-in-a-lifetime advocacy exhibit going REALLY got going! I’m truly blown away.

The so unique and creative pigments were used to paint “families and children living along the dead rivers.” The artists were limited to the browns and blacks and hues of the pollutants of the rivers, but this precisely dramatized the emotions of the families and moroseness of dead rivers in each and every painting.

The painting featured here is by master watercolorist Toti Cerda. He used pigments from the Taguig (black), Tullahan (gray) and Cainta Rivers (brown).

What won TBWA the two Cannes Bronzes were the two print ads that promoted the art exhibit. The exhibit, held in Rockwell last May, was featured in over a hundred Web sites, news programs, and blogs around the world, including Core 77, Le Monde, the BBC, the Huffington Post, Trend Hunter, Yahoo News, and Reuters.

Incidentally, TBWA won a third Cannes metal, this time for a Boysen poster — but that is, of course, another story.

My deepest congratulations, TBWA\Santiago Mangada Puno for singly unfurling the Philippine flag in advertising for this year’s most prestigious Cannes wins!

Credits. Chief creative officer: Melvin Mangada; Creative Director/Copywriter: Bryan Siy; Creative Director/ Art: John Ed De Vera; Art Directors: Luigi Villamar and Nikko Pascua; Directors: Kevin Gabon and Emilie Batard; Artists: Allan Clerigo, Kean Barrameda, Toti Cerda,

Ferd Failano, Renee Ysabelle Jose, Luigi Almuena, John Ed Devera, Van Isunza, JC Vargas; Curator: Cid Reyes; Scientist: Nino Caguimbal.

Nanette Franco-Diyco ended her 15th year advertising career as Vice-President of JWT, segueing into the world of academe, currently teaching communications at the Ateneo de Manila University.