Design Plus: How Bickerstaff (Ukraine) wins awards and clients in the midst of war

By Mark Tungate

The independent agency sends us an update after a year of war and reflects on a patriotic packaging campaign.

Ukrainian agency Bickerstaff.658 (the number frequently changes – see below) won a Gold in the Non-Alcoholic Drinks category at the Epica Awards, despite being based in war-torn Kyiv.

Launched at the beginning of the conflict, the packaging-driven project involved replacing the name of a well-known dairy brand with the names of 14 different Ukrainian regions.

A year later, we find out how the agency is bearing up.

What is your current situation – where are you and your colleagues working now?

We have a hybrid work format. Part of the team is abroad, but the majority is in Kyiv, and we continue to work there despite the blackouts and everything else.

We ordered a Starlink [satellite internet service], equipped the premises with generators…For us it’s a war, but for our customers the business must keep moving despite external circumstances.

We even stipulate in contracts that the war is not a force majeure, and that we fulfil all obligations. So we allocate resources to each project to ensure that we can always function smoothly.

How are you managing to work and communicate day-to-day, amidst the attacks and power outages?

After October 10, rolling and then emergency blackouts began in the country. At the beginning of the full-scale war, we abandoned the office. This decision was made to save the team and salaries.

But now, due to the blackouts, the question of how and where to work has become more urgent. That’s why we are returning to the office. We are currently preparing a place where we will have all the necessary equipment: generators, Starlink and a safe shelter.

Have you managed to keep all your clients during this period? Or indeed, have new ones come aboard?

We have always paid attention to the social component of projects, but since the outbreak of war, a large share of our work has been exclusively volunteer projects. For the agency, these are important as our contribution to victory. Now the situation has balanced out, we have opened an office in Lisbon and resumed more stable work in Kyiv. We have clients from the UK – one of these projects is the branding of the Duke of Edinburgh’s “Stand by Me” Award – Germany, Poland, the United States, and of course we continue to do a lot of projects for Ukraine.

Let’s talk about your Gold-winning campaign, “We Instead of Me”. How did the idea for the campaign emerge? Were you already working for the brand Galychyna?

The client came to us with the task of creating a brand communication that would be relevant “during the war and even after”.

The first thing we did was pour ourselves a full glass of Galychyna, drink it, get inspired by our milk moustaches, and start thinking about how Ukraine and its people have changed.

And we realized that our unity is our strength, and that we are inspiring not only ourselves but people around the world. That’s how the “We Instead of Me” strategy was born – and the idea along with it.

Ukrainian brands that were competing for customers yesterday have united to ensure that all their customers can return to their families.

Since the early days of the war, Galychyna has been doing everything possible to support the country: donating products to charity and sending them wherever possible – and sometimes impossible!

The company’s new communication is primarily about “we”.

After all, in the first hours of a full-scale war, Ukrainians organized themselves to fight against a common enemy. Ukrainians win together, no matter what region they come from.

Everyone here knows the Galychyna brand is named after one of Ukraine’s historical regions. So we decided to talk not just about Galychyna, but other regions too.

How did you arrange the logistics of the campaign, which required redesigning the bottles to include 14 different names?

The logistics were complicated as some of the materials were printed in a region where there are very active hostilities. The whole campaign came with a lot of risks.

As a result, in some regions the campaign actually started before the “official” launch – when people saw the packaging on the shelves – while in other regions people asked whether it was fake and when they could buy the bottles.

How did the client distribute the bottles to the corresponding regions, as I imagine that transport was disrupted? How many bottles were there?

We have been delivering our products all over the country, except for the occupied territories and the front line, where heavy fighting is taking place. Of course, there were (and are) some difficulties, but we are solving them. More than six million bottles were sold as part of the “We Instead of Me” campaign.

What were the reactions on social media?

Ukrainians appreciated the idea and began to actively share photos, their emotions and impressions on Twitter. People wrote that this was the first milk that made them cry.

The first results were felt when people started posting poems and photos of Galychyna, Donbass or Slobozhanshchyna. The idea resonated as soon as people saw the packaging on the shelves.

The communication began to promote itself, as evidenced by numerous TikToks, memes and other content.

What was the most surprising thing about the campaign?

The media result can be summed up by the phrase “the first milk in the world that moved me”. Not because of our idea, but because of people’s words.

A thing as ordinary as a bottle of milk strengthened people’s love for their native home.

We received more than 20 million digital media impressions in the first month of the campaign alone.

People dedicated songs to milk, created memes, recorded duets in TikTok, took selfies with bottles of milk… On Ukrainian Twitter, “Galychyna” has almost become a leading topic.

People share information about their regions and post their own memories.

Finally, why do the numbers at the end of your name change all the time?

The thing with the numbers is just our feature, which we love very much and find it funny. If you want to, you can use Bickerstaff.655 everywhere to make it clearer.

Answers by Olya Gonchar, PR Manager, Bickerstaff.655


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The APPIES is an annual event that presents a rare opportunity for creative, media, digital and marketing agencies or brands to present their best campaigns to the industry.

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