Burma Pen Project is a giant installation built at New York’s Grand Central Terminal: has won a Gold Cube at the 90th ADC Awards for Design, 4 Gold Lions, one Bronze Lion and 3 Shortlist at 2011 Cannes International Advertising Festival.
In 2010, Burma held its first elections in 20 years. These elections would have been meaningless if more than 2,100 political prisoners remained locked up in Burma’s squalid prisons. Human Rights Watch created a campaign calling for the release of these innocent prisoners by utilizing added pressure from the public and the United Nations.
A giant installation (7’x 18’) was built at New York’s Grand Central Terminal. The installation featured a massive mock prison with 200 miniature cells and 2,000 pens in lieu of cell bars. Visitors could remove the pens to symbolically free the prisoners, and then use the pens to sign an onsite petition calling for their release.
It was the right time to put the spotlight on Burma and the plight of the prisoners languishing in Burma’s jails. Awareness of the elections in Burma was low among many people in the United States and across the globe. HRW needed to gain the attention of the media, the world leaders and the prisoners’ captors. This hinged upon the success of engaging the public in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall. The challenge was to do this in a way that would get jaded commuters to stop, listen and take action. A leaflet was handed out with further details of the campaign.
In less than 12 hours, tens of thousands of signatures were collected from people of 86 countries. The installation attracted media from around the globe. The petition book was then sent to the United Nations’ Secretary General and leaders of countries that maintain close ties with Burma. Due to its success, the installation toured Prague and Brussels. Most importantly, more than 150 political prisoners have since been released, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Advertising Agency: JWT, New York
Chief Creative Officers: Harvey Marco, Peter Nicholson
Executive Creative Director: Andrew Clarke
Head of Art: Aaron Padin
Art Director: Roy Wisnu
Copywriter: Chris Swift
Director of Photography: Izzy Levine
Photographers: Izzy Levine, Bill Bramswig / Platon