The making of the Russia — My History advertising campaign

Overview• Process

Located in VDNKh’s 57th pavilion, Russia — My History historical park is a large multimedia project that aims to show Russia’s history in a fun, accessible way. The park’s exhibits make use of animation, videoinfographics, 3D models and digital reconstructions and a variety of media (light boxes, collages, projectors, tablet computers, interactive surface tables and movie theaters). Unlike traditional museums, the park aims to draw attention to historic processes, rather than objects.

The ideal advertising campaign for the park would have to be conspicuous, splashy, should attract attention without any ambiguity. It has to be understandable by a wide audience, not a small group of experts.

Art director: It’s better to explore several directions at the same time, preferably different ones. Here are some ideas to get you started. We can build advertising on paradoxical texts, for example by finding words that had different meanings in different times or whose meanings were lost in time. Or we can use the history metaphor, or come up with our own (for example, enfilading curtains where each of them is an era), or typography where words are typed with a characteristic typeface of their era, or the opposite, where everything is mixed up and old words are typed with Helvetica and the modern ones are in Izhitsa. Or choose a couple of contrasting images of different ages and show their connection. And so on.

Sketching ideas.

The art director chooses the more interesting designs. Showing to the artistic director and presenting to the client.

The client decides to go with the third idea. Connection between the old reality and the new one, drawing analogies. For example hipsters are the new boyars. The transition is shown using pixelization and glitch visual effects that together with the caption hint at the exhibition’s digital format.

Starting to look for pairs from the past and the present:
— A Soviet and a modern ice rink.
— A ball and a rave party (or disco).
— Buildings (for example, Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Shukhov tower versus the Federation tower).
— A samovar and an electric kettle.
— A light bulb then and now.
— Trains (trams) then and now.
— Letters or words written in modern and ancient typefaces.
— Books yesterday and today.
— A pigeon and a Yota Phone.
— Money.
— Art (classic and modern).
— Stoves (a traditional Russian one and some modern one).
— A cart wheel and a car wheel.
— A soccer ball (or even an entire soccer match).
— Space yesterday and today (anything goes: rockets, astronauts, satellites).
— The wooden and the stone Kremlin.
— Old and modern clocks.
— The very first TV and the modern one.
— A newspaper and an e-book reader.
— Alexander Nevsky and a hockey player.
— Peter the Great and a barber.
— Alexander Suvorov and a mountain climber.
— Khrushchev and a shoe salesman or a gardener.
— A vityaz and a hipster (contrast between a brutal warrior and a brutal non-warrior).

Exploring the park’s website and finding a list of interesting facts. They help us create some more interesting ideas:
— The Worker and Kolkhoz Woman monument was created for a Paris exhibition (show the statue in the front with the transition from Paris to Moscow in the back).
— In the past, men used to knit instead of women.

Finding interesting stuff on the internet:
— Difference between calendars: an Old Slavonic graphic circular-based calendar versus the dry modern one with only numbers.
— Dushegreyka (Old Russian women’s sleeveless jacket, colorful and embroidered) versus today’s monotonous blank apparel.

Art director: I went through all the ideas over again and it seems we don’t have that many right now, and what we have isn’t very exciting. Let’s try these ones: Alexander Nevsky and a hockey player, an old and a new ice rink, a girl pouring water from an electric kettle and an old kettle with an old cup. Maybe, old and new art. The rest is too random or too boring (simply old versus new or round versus square).

The art director suggests another transition effect with an improved feeling of movement and continuity.

The client asks us to generate other ideas. They like the overall approach and the idea behind it, but unfortunately think it would not work for ordinary people who aren’t as versed in history. We need simpler, more understandable pairings. And using Alexander Nevsky will undoubtedly cause problems with the Russian Orthodox Church as he is one of the church’s saints.

Thinking about new pairs:
— A Matryoshka and a Soviet tumbler doll.
— Vostok spacecraft at launch and at VDNKh.
— Soviet fancy cats and hipsters (show what’s changed: clothes, attributes, tattoos).
— Personality and sculpture (show transition of a cult personality into its modern representation, for example Pushkin into a monument to Pushkin).
— Transition of the Soviet flag (or the Russian Empire flag) into the Russian flag.
— A Vityaz and a fireman (armor and helmet as common elements).
— Soviet and modern athletes.
— Image of a modern muscovite (attire then and now).
— A Metro station (of the ones that changed a lot over time).
— A family around a TV and a tablet screen in a car.
— A kite and a drone.
— A kick scooter and a Segway or a gyro scooter.
— A Russian row boat and a river tram (or Peter the Great’s boat and the Kruzenshtern barque).
— A mounted Russian warrior and a Soviet mounter policeman.
— Brutalist architecture and the International Space station.
— A Russian clothes iron and an icebreaker or a steamship, such as Aurora.
— A distaff and a car or a carousel.

Considering another concept.

Art director: I like collages (such as with the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman) but I believe they don’t match the spirit of the exhibition. Our bearded men and skiers are closer, I think, so let’s keep them. But it will be difficult to realize these ideas, especially quickly. Which is why we need to show the hipster-looking everyday carry photos and a hussar in a VR headset.

Art director: This is too far-fetched, let’s go back to our previous ideas.

The client approves the lady with the yoke vs the lady with skies, the lady with a mirror vs the lady with a phone and Pozharsky vs a man in a helmet, but asks to also offer a modern military hero instead of the hockey player and the fireman. They also want to use a male image instead of the herring saleswoman and a lady with a handbag. Something akin to a businessman, an entrepreneur, then and now.

Creating sketches for the photographer.

Taking photos and creating mock-ups.

Experimenting.

The one with the beard looks boring, trying to add something to make it more interesting.

Deciding to go with the Segway.

No, doesn’t work. Taking another photo in a different outfit.

The helmet doesn’t look great, drawing a new one.

Quickly creating a base model, adding lighting, rendering and finalizing in Photoshop.

Preparing mock-ups and handing them over to the client.