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How This Bank’s Sign Language Ad Flips the Inclusive Script


Creatives at Lew'Lara\TBWA discuss Banco de Brasil’s sign language dance that leaves everyone else reading captions for once, writes LBB’s Ben Conway

How This Bank’s Sign Language Ad Flips the Inclusive Script

The end of September was a significant period for Brazil’s (and the international) deaf community. With ‘International Week of the Deaf’, Brazil’s ‘National Day of the Deaf’, and ‘International Day of Sign Languages’ coinciding within a fortnight, Lew'Lara\TBWA and Banco de Brasil decided to craft a campaign that would commemorate Brazil’s 10 million deaf and hard of hearing citizens through a performance in Brazilian Sign Language (BSL): ‘Libras’.

Combining the movements of Libras into a dance-like performance, ‘There Are 10 Million of Us’ shows how hearing-challenged people are just like everyone else - and is enacted entirely by deaf and hard-of-hearing performers. The communications were co-created with the deaf actors and with guidance from NGO Turma do Jiló, and are designed for hearing-impaired viewers - rather than for able-bodied people, as most advertising is. This means that the spot is an exercise in empathy for the majority of viewers, as they have to read the subtitles, whilst the Libras-fluent deaf community can follow the sign language, rather than watching a picture-in-picture BSL interpreter or reading captions themselves.

The cast was chosen to portray the diversity within the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, including people who communicate with Libras, oralised speakers; wearers of cochlear implants or hearing aids; and lip-readers - as well as demonstrating an array of intersecting ages, appearances, genders, races, and ethnicities. The film shows how, like everyone else, they have their own hobbies and favourite films - and that they earn money and deserve a bank that can provide a full service in Libras.  

To go behind the scenes on this campaign and discuss how Banco de Brasil and Lew'Lara\TBWA connected authentically with deaf and hearing-impaired Brazilians, LBB’s Ben Conway spoke to the creative agency’s ECD, Rodrigo Tortima, and art director, Natalia Calvoso.

LBB> Where did the initial idea for this campaign come from? What was the brief like and what were some immediate ideas that came to mind?

Rodrigo and Natalia> The briefing asked us to showcase Banco do Brasil's new customer service tool in Brazilian Sign Language – ‘Libras’. This lets deaf and hearing-impaired people communicate through BSL virtually and in real life at any branch of this bank. Initially, we thought about making a completely silent film, so that hearing viewers could experience and understand the difficulties faced by this community. However, through research and insights from our planning area, we found that there are more than 10 million deaf and hearing-impaired people in Brazil, forming a true nation within a nation. It was then that the idea of designing a campaign by and for them arose, starring members of this community as protagonists, instead of bit players. 

LBB> How did you work with the Turma do Jiló and cast the deaf performers?

Rodrigo and Natalia> The consulting services of the Turma do Jiló NGO were crucial from start to finish. Without them, we would have stumbled unaware into capability gaps. And when it comes to an unprecedented style of communication, we learned together how to create good practices right the way through, encompassing everyone. Our partner that produced the film, Boiler, contacted cast production houses specialising in non-actors, in parallel to intensive research in social networks, dance groups, and recommendations from deaf community event coordinators.

LBB> How does the campaign attempt to show that the hearing-challenged are just like everyone else?

Rodrigo and Natalia> We drew up a manifesto in which the deaf and hearing-impaired talk about the details of their everyday lives, how they watch series, get emotional, wash clothes, walk the dog, pay their bills, and have a bank they can trust, like anyone else. We also showed that many of them enjoy music and dancing, in contrast to what people might expect. We strived to show how natural this condition is for them, and how they have just the same needs as the hearing community.

LBB> How did you write the Brazilian Sign Language 'copy' for the spot? Why did you choose Libras as the main means of communication, with no voiceover?

Rodrigo and Natalia> Brazilian Sign Language has many specific characteristics, so we sought advice from the Turma do Jiló and translators, setting the tone of the text and pacing the words to fit into the commercials. Everything in this film is about the active roles played by this community. We decided that BSL would be the main form of communication in this spot precisely to highlight this concept. We didn't want to compete with anything else. In fact, we added subtitles only because we didn’t want to exclude a large segment of the deaf community that doesn't use BSL. 

During this process, we learned that Libras goes far beyond just making signs with the hands. At the same time, it's closely related to dance, as a beautiful means of physical and cultural expression. We had a pair of amazing choreographers, who worked together with the Turma do Jiló performers during rehearsals and shoots. The main guides were light signals and floor vibrations, keeping everyone in step. 

LBB> What was the media placement strategy?

Rodrigo and Natalia> The proposal was designed to boost video views. Because of the characteristics of the selected media (digital, television, and cinema), we could generate a greater feeling of closeness, developing a more powerful dialogue between the topic and its target markets. We focused on generating closeness and dialogues with viewers on the topic of accessibility.

In digital, there were two fronts:

- Reach: Broader targeting, assigning high priority to building up coverage in target audiences, using formats with stronger visual impacts - a focus on coverage and recall. 

- Consideration: More tightly targeted segmentation, and enhanced content engagement for audiences, using formats with medium visual impacts - a focus on engagement.

LBB> Who helped to create the BSL 'talking-hands' symbol that replaced the BB logo? 

Rodrigo and Natalia> Even before the Libras sign appeared in the Banco do Brasil logo, we were already thinking that an emblem of this type was overdue. Surprisingly, the cast spontaneously got together during rehearsals and created the official sign, inspired by the bank’s logo.

LBB> Were you on set for production? What was that process like? Do you have any interesting anecdotes or lessons learned from the production?

Rodrigo and Natalia> Yes, we were there throughout the entire process, from rehearsals to shooting. The process was organised and conducted with a very light touch by a fantastic director, Liv Stacciarini, and the Boiler production house. We were shooting on two sets simultaneously for a whole day, with the support of an equally amazing second director, Nico Matteis. The cast was divided into two groups that switched places on the sets. This entire process was very rewarding as a learning exercise. Living with this community turned into a key factor for us. This is a very diverse community of deaf and hearing-impaired members with different levels of hearing loss, so the group differs in many aspects, such as cochlear implants. We found the deaf culture is beautiful and they're all very proud of it. 

LBB> How did you react to the final piece? What is your favourite shot or moment from the spot? 

Rodrigo and Natalia> Everyone reacted very similarly the first time we watched it, with emotion bubbling over into tears and thanks. There’s never been a project with this atmosphere. It's very difficult to pick a moment from this film, because they were all wonderful. But I think the ‘We have bosses, we're the bosses’ part when the cast performs a ‘face-off’ choreography is especially moving.

LBB> How does the campaign aim to support hearing-challenged people beyond International Week of the Deaf?

Rodrigo and Natalia> It’s very important that these people know about this tool offered by Banco do Brasil. Although it’s just a small step towards a more accessible world, it can inspire more and more initiatives that really make life easier for the deaf community - and people living with other disabilities as well. By spotlighting this banking service in a campaign that gives its recipients leading roles, we are also ushering this community into the communications industry, sweeping away barriers, and opening doors. That's the beauty and power of this project.

LBB> What was the most formidable challenge you faced in this campaign and how did you surmount it? 

Rodrigo and Natalia> The hardest thing for sure was to get out of the world of abstraction and materialise the concept. How would this mix of BSL and dance be orchestrated? At some points, it was very difficult to predict exactly how this project would look, until we saw all our references compiled on a storyboard, close to the day of the shoot. But with plenty of dedication, study, and passion, we reached our goal. Despite the difficulties of producing something so unprecedented, everyone involved was imagining an incredible and poetic outcome, honestly believing in this project from start to finish. That made all the difference. It made it happen.

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LBB Editorial, Mon, 10 Oct 2022 15:01:00 GMT