United Nations’ Cyber Attack Campaign; Conveying A Strong Message

Los Angeles
13 Jul. 2020

There’s a lot of nuance that goes into creating a powerful message – a message that impacts the world, a message that can be life-changing. United Nations succeeds in accomplishing this feat by weaving the message around cyber security in a beautifully crafted story.

If you had to issue an important warning without scaring the general public, what would you do? UN’s latest campaign video on the imminent dangers of ignoring cyber security warnings seems to strike this fine balance between action and reaction. Instead of opting for a cold, straight-out-of-the-board-meeting kinda presentation, the video builds up the outcomes of an impending danger. Yet, not once does it seem to waiver from its commitment towards its take-away.

The eight-minute short film builds up with newsroom frenzy about a mysterious power outage resulting in crenelation of all the flights at a fictional airport – The Tuan International Airport. What ensues is a series of news reports from Western and Asian television channels as they struggle to get footage of the outage and try to make sense of what was happening. This part was meant to paint a picture of what an unseen danger looks like, and it does to a large extent.

The short film then spills the beans about the resulting outcomes such as failure of Air Traffic Control systems, cancellation of more than 100 flights in a day and impact on financial markets. The Asian, African and American news anchors are deliberately chosen to convey a world-wide impact.

The Head of State holds a press conference to address the cyber crisis in the United Nation film – The Hacker. Courtesy of Sinema Films. 

Non-linear Storytelling

Choosing the non-linear style of storytelling, the short film then takes viewers to six hours earlier where a group of hackers – belonging to various nationalities and locations –  are shown making security breaches using their laptops. Most of these hackers look normal geeky people yet with sinister intentions. This part is specially carefully executed considering that an organization such as UN cannot be alarmist, the aim is not to create terror in the audience, but to sensitize.

This transition happens quickly on screen changing to present day where the Asian reporter is interviewing a cyber security expert. The expert then outlines the various causes and reasons as to what went wrong and how important it is for governments to take their own cyber infrastructure seriously.    

The film is worthy of commendation especially from the point of view of government decision makers who are the targeted audience. This demographic can tell the difference between sensationalizing an issue and enumerating the dangers of it. Another important angle that the film manages to touch is how ignorant general public is when it comes to global issues such as cyber security. This was a crucial message because it is indeed the general public that’s worst hit during global tragedies or breakdowns.

Paving a way for action-oriented messaging

Visual medium is powerful in that it can tell a moving story in less time while prompting people to take action. UN’s cyber security film is a fine example of how governments around the world can use this medium efficiently to channelize resources. Spreading the awareness about any issue through this medium is like giving the audience a walk-through of the outcomes of a certain danger.

In the film, a master hacker coordinates the actions of underlings from different parts of the world. Courtesy of Sinema Films

What can powerful films accomplish?

The most recent example of visual channelizing is Netflix’s original documentary called City of Joy released worldwide in 2016. The documentary revolves around the City of Joy  – a gated community for the restoration of rape victims in Congo. Through the documentary, viewers around the world were introduced to the uncomfortable truth that some of the world’s most loved brands were actually responsible for sponsoring violence in Congo. This is because the region is rich in four most commonly mined conflict minerals: coltan, tin, tungsten and gold. Viewers learnt for the first time that brands such as Apple, Nikon, Sony, Canon, Toshiba, Lenovo and Samsung use coltan as an integral ingredient for smartphones and electronics. The documentary garnered considerable media attention educating the whole world as to why women in Congo need everyone’s help and attention.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been using a lot of interesting videos to win trust and channelize people to help the agency. Breaking the stereotypes, the Bureau releases lighter videos such as ‘Becoming an agent’ showcasing physical fitness requirements for any applicant to success stories of how common people helped FBI solve vital cases. One such case was how the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History staff helped the Minneapolis division of the FBI in the case of stolen ruby slippers from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ back in 2005. Short videos and films such as these help enforce positive ties and synergy between the common man and government agencies.

In ‘The Hackers’, TV pundits disseminate in the news in a rapid 24/7 news cycle.

Government agencies need to go where people are

Today people are spending 67 minutes of every day watching online videos, a report stated. If governments channelize video production companies to create relevant but entertaining content for these viewers, they can establish a mutual trust and synergy. Governments and agencies can hire social media production companies based out of specific cities such as New York or Los Angeles to convey a message the local people best understand. Such local video production companies have the pulse of the audience and can successfully generate powerful messaging that’s unique to the region. This in turn would help these agencies do their job faster and better once they are able to channelize a whole community.

The campaign video of the United Nations was conceived and created by Sinema Films – a  video production company based out of New York. Their creative team chose to partner with the United Nations because  ‘we believe that powerful messages are best conveyed through visual storytelling,’ an official of the company conveyed. If you are a change-maker, a government agency or administration looking for reaching out to people in visual ways, the short film may be offer the solution. 

Los Angeles
13 Jul. 2020
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