Told by Yegor Zhgun:
In September, 2010 I received an offer from the “Sochi-2014” Organizing Committee to participate in the Olympic mascot design contest. The first stage was to take place via internet, so it was important to attract web users to the project. The approach was very daring: to create a “people’s” version of the mascot and release a promo video to support it. I’ve got a carte blanche with promises of no scripts pushed, no editing, and no asking to cut a “wrong” frame out. (Spoiler: they did keep their word.)
To be able
to goof around to play a joke on official State’s business was really appealing to me (I wish they came with such requests on daily basis.)
Now to the toad itself.
Tinting our Zoich tender baby-blue color, fluffing him up a bit, and uploading to the contest’s website. Writing a truthful description: The Frog Prince is one of the most beloved characters from Russian folk tales who is a quintessential symbol of the national and cultural values. There are Olympic rings in his eyes to promote the Olympic values and tsar crown on top of his head to remind us of the Majesty of the State and Spirituality.
As you know, the website practiced pre-moderation, so while waiting for the project to get approved and posted I was preparing an announcement of the subject for my blog, and was taken off-guard by a letter from the contest’s administration office with edited copy of my description:
“Zoich. Or Zoich big time if you try to leak him against grain. Feeding on dolphins, skiers, and hockey players, as well as churchkhella, bears, and other competitors in the 2014 Olympics mascot competition. Greases his skis with lard and is in training to take part in all fifteen Olympic sports, if they do not extend the list by 2014. Pshh-Pshh-Pshh—his eyes are willing you to vote for him.”
I had to stay firm and write back: “If I myself was taking part in the competition, I’d write the exact same description as I did for my project, not some stand-up-style stuff.”
My argument was duly respected, and the project successfully made it through pre-moderation with loosing a single paragraph on the Frog-Prince from my original text. During his very first day on the web, Zoich quickly propelled to the first position and collected hundreds of links; all in all, the start was not bad.
Ok, now we need a supporting video.
It was originally planned to to make a classic brainwash video. Something like a piece shown to people chained to chairs in one of the “Lost” series episodes. However, the process of the video making revealed the idea to be deadly boring and lacking the Great Imperial factor. So, it was decided to switch to a classic epic movie epic trailer instead, titled “What it would be like if Zoich wins.” The brainwash episode is embedded in the heart of the video in a form of encouragement to follow a link and vote.
One of the first variations:
Zoich kept its first place earned during the first forty minutes of its existence all the way through the voting phase. So, while we planned on launching the video two weeks after posting the project, there was really no need for it. Which was good chance to tweak it and polish some more.
During its first week after uploading, the video collected 200 000 views and was featured in some broadcasts on mascot contest on few TV channels.
At some point it felt very possible that the expert jury assembling in December would really approve Zoich for the final contest stage. But there was no surprise at the end and the outcome was in general just like expected from the very beginning with the following projects making it to the short-list: Hare, Dolphin, Polar bear, Brown bear, Bullfinch, Leopard, Snowflake, the Sun, Little men, Ded Moroz, and Matryoshka.
This resulted in a second wave of reporters’ activity, with Zoich appearing in more articles and broadcasts in different media, including “Ъ-Власти” publication and “Al Jazeera.”