Scope of Good Practice
On September 14, 2011, an incredible scene unfolded at the Sheba Hospital in Israel. A group of Israelis and Palestinians, all of whom had lost loved ones to the conflict, lay side-by-side, some hand-in-hand, as tubes connected to their arms drew blood for distribution to hospitals on 'the other side.' Those with the most reason to hate had been brought together through a powerful act of human bonding.
The Blood Relations project provided a catalyst for a new dialogue in the Middle East by demonstrating two peoples’ shared humanity through the common bond of blood.
The Problem Addressed by the Campaign
By the spring of 2011, the Israelis and the Palestinians had drifted dangerously apart. The previous 20 years of political negotiations had left in its wake a long list of broken agreements and dashed hopes, periodically interrupted by violence and conflict.
Ordinary Israelis and Palestinians had become so tied up with their respective narratives that the prospect of finding common ground between the two communities seemed a distant dream.
The primary campaign objective was to bring people from both sides closer together.
Blood Relations is the outcome of The Impossible Brief initiative launched at Cannes 2010 by the agency and the Peres Center for Peace.
The idea was simple: to harness the collective power of the world's greatest gathering of creative minds to help crack a problem that has remained unsolved for over 60 years: how to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer together.
The aim of The Impossible Brief was not to find a solution to the conflict that politicians had failed to resolve for decades, but simply to demonstrate that creative thinking could be used to approach this complex issue from a fresh, human perspective.
The campaign aimed to radically change the conversation in the region – using only the power of creativity.
The Impossible Brief was shared with the worldwide creative community through blogs, websites, advertising networks, art schools and direct mail.
Response to The Brief was overwhelming – ideas poured in from 67 countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and Iran.
The winning idea, 'Mutual Blood,' was announced at a special exhibition of the finalists organized by Saatchi & Saatchi EMEA at the 2011 Cannes Festival. Thus began the incredible story of Blood Relations – the Israeli-Palestinian Mutual Blood Donation Project.
To overcome the many cultural and linguistic barriers facing us in engaging such a diverse audience, the team chose something that unites all people: the blood running through all our veins.
Blood was both the message of the campaign, and the 'media' used to deliver the message of reconciliation and hope.
The strategy was to use the mutual blood donation concept, and the universal human message it delivered, to provide media outlets with an inspiring Middle East story.
Another strategic consideration was to create a universally applicable model for reconciliation, an idea which would resonate with audiences around the world.
The insight behind Blood Relations can be summarized in a single question:
"Could you hurt someone who has your blood running through their veins?"
The question helps to see the conflict from an entirely new perspective – one based on commonality, not difference. By sharing blood, people who would otherwise be poles apart can create a physical union, an unbreakable bond. Only such a bold, audacious step could succeed in breaking through the cynicism and despondency that has colored how each side has come to view the other.
The headline event of the Blood Relations project was the mutual blood donation that took place on the 14th September between bereaved Israelis and Palestinians, all of whom had lost loved ones in the conflict. The event was timed to coincide with the run-up to the United Nations (U.N.) Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood a week later.
A second, 2-day public blood donation event took place at the Cinematheque complex in Tel Aviv on the 18th September, U.N. eace Day. Dedicated street teams gave out Blood Relations-branded merchandise and certificates of appreciation to donors.
Starting in November 2011, a series of international blood donation events took place.
On 21st September 2011 (U.N.Peace Day) the Peres Centre for Peace hosted an event to launch the project, inviting dignitaries and leaders of key organisations in the region and the diplomatic community.
A film documenting the blood donations was screened alongside an exhibition, and a group of international, Israeli and Palestinian communications and media experts conducted a panel discussion on the role of creativity and advertising in promoting relations between the two nations.
A dedicated minisite was launched, enabling people around the world to make virtual blood donations. Donations made on the site were posted to donors' Facebook pages to maximize exposure and drive more traffic.
At the Cinematheque blood donation event, dedicated promo street teams engaged with members of the public, gave out Blood Relations-branded merchandise and certificates of appreciation to donors.
At the prestigious Doha Debates in Dubai, flyers were handed out containing a QR code directing users to the minisite to make a virtual blood donation.
The documentary film was sent to film festivals around the world. The film was also shared on YouTube, Facebook and leading creative websites.
There was no paid-for media used in the Blood Relations project.
The campaign met all of the objectives it set out to achieve:
1. Bring Israelis and Palestinians closer together
The campaign succeeded in bringing together those Israelis and Palestinians with the most reason to hate – who had lost loved ones in the conflict – and convinced them to share blood instead of spilling it. No other non-profit campaign had ever brought two such extremes together in such an inspiring and emotionally impactful action. These powerful images were shared with hundreds of millions of people in the region and around the world, delivering the message that if these individuals could find reconciliation and hope where there was once despair, anyone anywhere could.
2. Actively engage world leaders
The campaign succeeded not only in grabbing the attention of the most hard-to-reach people in the United States Administration, the United States Congress and the U.N. but also in winning their active participation in the project.
Blood Relations succeeded not only in grabbing the attention of the world's most powerful leaders and organizations but also in engaging them actively in the project – something few grassroots campaigns have ever managed to do.
The significant of this achievement cannot be overstated – especially given the small budget assigned to the project and the total lack of paid-for media spend.
The project demonstrated in a few months what statesmen have failed to grasp in decades of political discussions: the awesome ability of creativity to bring people closer, even in the most unlikely situations.
3. Provide world leaders with a new tool for reconciliation
Though the practical implementation of this goal have yet to be seen, the campaign has won the backing of the U.N., whose global mandate makes puts it in the best position to reapply the Blood Relations concept in other conflict zones to and to encourage world leaders to do likewise.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Feedback from global communities, fellow creative agencies, politicians and others, has been overwhelmingly positive. The strength of insight and execution of the campaign has touched a great number of people across the world, and exposed them to an element of the conflict which is usually overshadowed by the media’s focus on negativity and violence.
This has encouraged the team to devise ways to take the campaign forward and apply it to other conflict zones, for example North and South Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan and more. Once this gets off the ground, it will constitute the second phase of Blood Relations, which they hope will continue to go from strength to strength, bring about awareness, and contribute towards reconciliation between other nations stuck in conflict.