Main image
30th June
2009
written by DouglasRogers

The Zimbabwean newspaper and TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris Johannesburg have won a Silver Lion at Cannes for their brilliant Trillion Dollar Campaign.

TBWA's campaign for The Zimbabwean newspaper

TBWA's campaign for The Zimbabwean newspaper


The agency came up with the only good use beyond toilet paper for Zimbabwe’s worthless currency: it turned the money itself into advertising.

Huge billboards comprised entirely of Zimbabwe dollar notes, including the Z$100, 000,000,000, 000 (yes that’s 100 Trillion) sprung up across South Africa stamped with the words: THANKS TO MUGABE THIS MONEY IS WALLPAPER.

Joburg billboard

Joburg billboard

Bricks of notes with the words “Fight the Regime” printed on them were given out to motorists at traffic stops, and mailed to industrialists, celebrities, and media personalities. Soon the newspaper, barley known outside Zimbabwe’s exile community, was getting two million hits a day on its site. With a minimal budget to work with, the Trillion Dollar Campaign turned out to be one of the cheapest and most powerful political and media ad campaigns in history.

As for the newspaper, it’s published weekly in Britain and Johannesburg and staffed by journalists who have been hounded out of Zimbabwe the past ten years. Its editor, veteran journalist Wilf Mbanga, was publisher of the independent Daily News in Harare, which was petrol-bombed by state security agents in 2000, and later forced to close.

On a personal note, I appeared with Wilf on the National Public Radio show The Connection on the day of the 2005 parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe. Of the many prophetic things I recall him saying that day, one comment really stood: “It’s not the elections in Zimbabwe that are violent,” he warned, “it’s the aftermath. When no-one is watching this regime will mete out punishment.”

Of course he was right. It happened in 2005, and even more ferociously in 2008.

Do check out his fine newspaper.

48 Comments

  1. Gavin
    01/07/2009

    Actually the campaign was the most successful campaign in the history of Cannes. 1 Grand Prix (outdoor), 5 Gold (including an elusive Titanium Gold Lion), 1 Silver and 2 bronze. In addition the campaign grew subscriptions for the Zimbabwean by over 300%. And hits on the Zimbabwean website went from about 20,000 to over 2-million when the campaign launched. This is not to mention the huge huge number of websites/blogs/news articles all talking about The Zimabwean.

  2. [...] money used for campaign for The Zimbabwean newspaper. J’burg agency wins a Cannes prize. http://www.douglasrogers.org/blog/?p=33 [...]

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