As you may already know, Ukraine is a country of brave people. However, this doesn’t mean we don’t experience fear. Quite the opposite, fear walks hand in hand with us as a constant companion. Russia uses fear as a weapon to exert influence on us and the rest of the world. Thus, we cannot deny our fear; instead, we’ve learned to harness its potent energy.
In the following article, our creative copywriter at award-winning agency Bickerstaff.521 would like to share some agency’s insights on fear and the experiences working in, and creating within, an atmosphere of terror. Our sincerest hope is that you never have to endure such an experience.
Living and working without fear in our lives is preferable, but we have come to understand some things about fear that we might never have realized within the bounds of safety.
I’m writing this at 3 a.m., lying on a mattress in the hallway of a house in Kyiv. I was awakened by the siren and can no longer sleep. The chemistry in my body has already changed.
Cortisol, adrenaline—my senses are primed for the explosive eruptions, the piercing whistles of rockets, or the ominous hum of drones. But there’s something in this—this alarm, danger, vigilance; let’s call it fear in general. And I’m writing now to try to understand and articulate what we have learned to extract from fear to work, create, and resist.”
The Energy of Fear
We’ve come to understand that there are two types of fear. One type holds you back and paralyzes you, while the other, on the contrary, empowers you and gives you an impulse. When fear grips you, but you embrace the challenge, it awakens your spirit, providing the necessary energy in that crucial moment. For instance, the fear of being occupied gave our people the strength to confront tanks with our bare hands.
At the beginning of the invasion, our agency worked tirelessly throughout the spring and summer of 2022. In a mere three days, we conceived the “We Instead of Me” project for Galychyna.
As our copywriter Seva put it, “To prevent fear from consuming you, something else must consume you.”
Consequently, he started studying tactical medicine alongside his work.
And this is our art director Sasha, hiding from a rocket attack and still working.
“After experiencing moments filled with fear, a wave of anger or sorrow would follow. Within those moments, ideas would emerge, bringing forth profound insights that resonated deeply within me.”
“This inspired me to craft creations that evoked an electric sensation, sending tingles down my spine. Fear, in its essence, serves to concentrate raw emotions, ideas, and their vivid clarity.”
Creative work is a constant battle with your own brain. The brain, as the most energy-consuming organ, always tries to save energy and offers solutions it already knows. However, creativity, as we know, is the opposite – it’s a search for something new, a non-obvious solution, creating new neural connections. All of this requires energy.
We often joke, “Good news, if you hear an explosion, it means it wasn’t you.” It’s a dark form of humor, but when faced with numerous devastating rocket attacks, you realize that if you weren’t killed by the rockets, then basically anything else is possible.
Fear, on the other hand, releases a lot of energy, mobilizing the body. If this energy can be directed towards work, much can be done quickly.
And what helps us direct the energy of fear towards work is our righteous anger, which usually arises in the same situations as fear.
We often joke, “Good news, if you hear an explosion, it means it wasn’t you.”
It’s a dark form of humor, but when faced with numerous devastating rocket attacks, you realize that if you weren’t killed by the rockets, then basically anything else is possible.
Polina, Art Director:
“I used to believe that my weakest skills were video and editing. I constantly avoided it, thinking I would never succeed. However, my very first task after the invasion began was editing. There was no worry or fear. I simply did it, and it worked. It seemed as though all the obstacles vanished when confronted with one overarching challenge—war.”
We often worked with tight deadlines in the past, but now it has become the norm. To better serve our clients in terms of speed and cost-effectiveness, we’ve shifted our production process in-house within the agency.
Creating twelve videos featuring 3D models of glasses? Why not?
Drawing a 2.5-minute cartoon? Piece of cake.
Fear also makes us wild, in a good way. Becoming wild is good; it means becoming maximally creative. The brain starts suggesting things you would never think of in a normal state. When you’re wild, you’re simultaneously naive, brave, inventive, and unpredictable.
For example, farmers who stole Russian equipment with tractors.
This is absolute wildness, but it worked. Moreover, it worked more as an informational event than as a military tactic because it surprises.
In the agency, we often used to say “wildly cool,” “wildly beautiful,” not even understanding what it really means. Now, from wildness, we’ve done many non-commercial projects that were important but didn’t help us survive. We also remembered the phrase from the agency’s founding times, “if we die, at least we started well.” This was back in the Covid times, which also scared us. Funny to remember.
We printed a 6,000-page book (the publisher was shocked), forged Air BNB ads and Viber gifs, and also refused to buy our Red Dot awards. It seems like some sort of wildness: win at a prestigious festival and then refuse the award.
But we saw a better option: we united with other wild Ukrainian winning agencies and gave these substantial funds to armament. So everyone knew about our victories and the money transfer, and our defenders got new drones for our main victory.
Another big wildness is asking the same from another festival. But we did it: we agreed with the Clio Awards that the submission money would be sent to the president’s fund. And they agreed. And they also awarded us with bronze and a shortlist.
Many projects were volunteer for us, even though we were barely making ends meet at that time. But at least we filmed Luke Skywalker in a clip. Cool! But thank God we lived until this year.
This is wildness. It’s like a person who climbs onto a roof during a missile attack to better capture how the missiles are shot down.
Fear and Values
You know, the experiment: if this day were the last day of your life, would you be doing what you’re doing now? Fear of death makes you think about a lot of things and reveals important principles. You perceive hypocrisy and double standards very sharply.
The social responsibility of our clients has always been important to us. Therefore, we didn’t work, for example, with gambling businesses. And now their global position is also a factor.
Some brands still operate in Russia. We will never work with them.
One of these brands approached us twice, and we twice refused cooperation. Although for us, this could have been a very successful and profitable partnership.
We refused to work with another brand even before it was closed in Ukraine. And all of this happened during the most challenging months when the agency had no money at all.
Now we see even more clearly that dishonesty, in the long run, costs much more than the benefit it brings in the short term.
‘Fear has brought us all closer. We have come to understand each other better, to feel what people around us feel, what they think. Those usually referred to as the target audience have become our neighbors, friends, relatives.”
Fear Brings People Closer
Proverbs say: fear has big eyes. Usually, this means that a person exaggerates everything and gets even more frightened. But it can be understood differently. If you have big eyes, you see what you didn’t see before.
Fear has brought us all closer. We have come to understand each other better, to feel what people around us feel, what they think. Those usually referred to as the target audience have become our neighbors, friends, relatives. This is how the “We instead of I” project for Galicia was born. With such big eyes from fear, we saw what was on the surface and what everyone needed.
Today we have all united in the face of an existential threat, in front of an aggressive maniac. Every citizen is resisting, which is expressed in continuing to live, create, plan, and develop. It may seem weird for people abroad that we still have restaurants open, parties, concerts, that we dance and smile. Probably they can’t really understand this. And we hope they never can. For us, it’s a way to show each other that we’re not going to die, we have our life and this is what we’re defending.
Brands in Ukraine should play the role of leaders, support people, inspire, and set an example. At that moment, everyone held their breath and did not yet understand what and how they could say to people. We with Galychyna were among the first to start campaigns, find a tone, and show the role of brands in modern Ukraine.
Another useful property of fear is that it won’t let you relax. No matter what awards, ratings, statuses we receive, it doesn’t calm us down at all while there’s a war at home.
Therefore, we continue to work incredibly hard and do the impossible for people with high values.