Imagine the situation: you’ve been asked by left-leaning political organisation the Greens–European Free Alliance to produce a short film which spreads awareness of forthcoming European Union legislation set to introduce penalties for retaliation against, or silencing of, whistleblowers. What do you do? If you’re creative agency Dancing Fox, you recruit a pan-European bunch of kids to talk about the massive bogey that’s currently worming its sticky-icky way out of your left nostril. Obviously.
The resulting video – which was shot in Amsterdam and has been produced in 15 languages – is a light-hearted take on a topic of the gravest kind of seriousness. Across the world, whistleblowers (which, for the uninitiated, is the name often given to individuals who stick their neck above the parapet and report on perceived wrongdoings in the workplace) risk reputations and livelihoods to act on a sense of duty. The proposed EU legislation would, if passed, oblige all EU governments to introduce minimum standards for the protection of truth-tellers.
With that in mind, the Dancing Fox team decided to take a decidedly more childish look at the problem. Children tell the truth – about all sorts – in order to remind an adult audience that no one should be punished for telling the truth.
Speaking to It’s Nice That, Dancing Fox’s creative director Tommy Crawford says: “Most videos on whistleblowing tend to be quite frightening: showcasing the worst-case scenario that can unfold after telling the truth, and most people tend to associate whistleblowers with high-profile cases such as Edward Snowden, when in reality the majority of cases when telling the truth will be important will be less to do with government surveillance and more to do with sexual harassment at work – which is sadly still very commonplace.”
From a creative angle, Tommy and his creative partner Brian Fitzgerald deployed a set of bright and bouncy subtitles, pitching them as the tonal opposite of the purely functional subtitles. As Tommy puts it, “it was important for us that the subtitles behave in a childlike manner because this video is a celebration of the refreshing honesty of children, and a call to protect those who remember the value of telling the truth – even when they grow up."
When It’s Nice That asks Tommy why he feels the notion that truth has an intrinsic value has become devalued in an age of mass dissemination of disinformation, he insists that: “In an age of fake news and information overload, it may well be that our hunger for story, and the truth that it can point to, has only grown stronger.”
He goes on to note that even the very word “whistleblower” has a bad rep, suggesting as it does a sort of high-stakes party-pooper. The boys are firmly of the belief that the opposite is true, describing whistleblowers as “truth-telling superheroes, serving up a big dose of honesty whenever needed,” adding that, “this video was our celebration of those truth-tellers, whether they are five years old, or 85 years old.”