Even as Russian tanks lined up on Ukraine's border, creative agency Banda didn’t believe an invasion was imminent. “We thought that it would never happen,” designer Danya Nesterevych says. “Because it’s impossible to imagine a war in Europe... in 2022.”
One month down the line and he has since relocated to stay with his grandmother in Vyshneve, near Kyiv. Now, out of Banda's 80 staff, only 10 remain in the besieged capital. Ten have escaped to neighbouring countries, with the rest scattered across Ukraine.
Right from the heart of conflict, the Kyiv-based agency has released two films in response to the incursion, with one more on the way.
The first, released four days after hostilities began, is a short video highlighting the devastating impact on the country; the second expresses gratitude for international support.
“All this support that we have from other countries is helping us win,” chief business officer Dmitry Adabir says. “It’s very important for us to feel this support.”
The third campaign, which is due to launch locally in Ukraine and internationally, aims to make Ukrainian bravery a brand.
“We want to show everybody in the world that we’re a brave nation,” Abadir explains. “We don’t want this hero Ukraine, killed by a monster. We want to support Ukrainians. To show them that we are brave. Not just in the war, but in business and in creativity.”
Those watching from afar might struggle to imagine how the creative agency, whose office (pictured above) now lies abandoned, continues to work from a war zone. But with the loss of Ukraine clients, the indie agency is actually desperate to keep working.
“We’re trying to keep people together,” Adabir says. “We are doing our best to have work, to pay salaries and to survive.”
“There’s a phrase, 'the army will win the battle but the economy will win the war',” Nesterevych adds. “The whole world needs to be ready to work with Ukraine, because we have many talented people in all fields, from IT to design, advertising and musicians. It’s a good time to be more connected with the whole world. To meet each other, closer.”
Having reached Prague, creative director Alexandra Doroguntsova says Banda’s current message is not to ask what's going on today but to save our future. “We’re trying to save the company and to keep working. We’re looking for new clients all over the world. We have an open call for another agency to help us with any brief or any project or just lend us some money.”
One final message for the ad industry, Abadir underscores the need to choose values over business: “Nowadays, it’s a great battle between values and money. We’re fighting for Western values. Big international companies who still trade and operate in Russia, choose money.”