Human Right Watch – Burma Pen Project

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.

The Goal
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


2 Comments on “Human Right Watch – Burma Pen Project”

  1. ╭ i-Japaneeds | ver. Patina ╮ » 扉はペンで開く says:

    […] »» Human Right Watch – Burma Pen Project « This is not ADVERTISING Recommend on Facebook Buzz it up Tumblr it Tweet about it Print for later Tell a […]

  2. Fergus Harlow says:

    To whom it may concern, respectfully;

    My name is Fergus Harlow and I am a student of the author, activist and first American to be ordained as a Buddhist monk in Burma, Alan Clements. I am currently working as his campaign ambassador for the EU, promoting an Indiegogo campaign aimed at funding a second edition of the book Alan wrote with Aung San Suu Kyi in 1995, The Voice of Hope.

    We are a team of “freedom-lovers” passionate about travelling to Burma, the heart of this radical transition from totalitarianism to democracy. Our intention is to document the insights and stories of the less known leaders in their long march toward freedom: former political prisoners; dissident writers, musicians, journalists, filmmakers, poets and comedians; Buddhist monks and nuns; reformed government leaders; shop owners; returning refugees; farmers; students; and possibly Aung San Suu Kyi herself, along with her esteemed colleagues, mentors and teachers.

    Please support us in anyway you can, through the campaign at, through sharing the campaign on your website, in your newsletters, by passing it on to anyone you know who you feel will be moved to help.

    Many thanks for your time,


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