BBC StoryWorks develops uplifting pan-African campaign for Emirates

Model, Shanelle Nyasiase


Dubai-based airline Emirates has long been in the business of connecting Africans with the rest of the world.

In its latest campaign, the airline called on its existing partnership with BBC Global News, which saw the account handed over to BBC StoryWorks.

“BBC StoryWorks is the commercial content team within the advertising sales division of BBC Global News,” says Richard Pattinson from BBC StoryWorks. “So if there’s a campaign beyond a media buy that involves the creation of branded content, or sponsorship of one of our great BBC editorial series, then we get involved.”

Pattinson and his team were provided with a campaign brief which asked them to increase awareness of Emirates across Africa. “To do this, we worked closely with Emirates’ creative agency, Leo Burnett, to develop a creative campaign consisting entirely of authentic African stories that would resonate with local audiences,” says Pattinson.

The creative team selected fashion, art, literature and music as the central themes to drive their African stories. Three creatives from across the African continent were chosen to be featured as cultural ambassadors and pioneers who celebrate and embody the spirit of Africa.

“At the heart of it, we wanted to produce a snapshot of modern, urban Africa that would resonate with a young and vibrant African audience. This meant it was really important for us to stay true to the stories presented in the films, and to avoid any clichés or worn out narratives. By focusing the campaign on the inspirational talent from across the continent, it allowed their stories to shine through and takes Emirates closer to the heart of their audience in a way that is authentic,” shares Pattinson.

With the aim to showcase Africa as a vibrant, revitalised continent where talent and creativity thrive, the campaign unfolds as a series of commercials or short films that present the inspirational stories behind each creative.

Africa Dreams with Shanelle

Shanelle Nyasiase is a 21-year-old South Sudanese model who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Kenya. Her short film titled Africa Dreams with Shanelle, shows how being an internationally recognised supermodel takes Shanelle to different corners of the world, but it’s her home, Nairobi, that gave her the wings to fly.

The ad is shot at a vibrant street market, dense with colourful African fabrics and garments. Through the ad, Nyasiase recounts how she had dreams of travelling the world as part of a cabin crew from a young age. However, her travelling dreams turned out better than she ever imagined.

Africa Soars with Abiola

Africa Soars with Abiola features Abiola Oke who left New York and a budding career on Wall Street to return to his hometown in Lagos, Nigeria where he started his own media company, OkayAfrica.

Oke shares how creative talents in Africa are reclaiming the narrative of the region and how his company, OkayAfrica has grown to be the leading digital media platform that connects a global audience to African music, film, culture and entertainment.

Africa Moves with Blinky Bill

Kenyan musician, producer and deejay, Blinky Bill Sellanga’s musical identity stems from Africa but transcends to the rest of the world. The performer collaborates with artists from Africa, Europe and other parts of the world.

In Africa Moves with Blinky Bill, the artist explains how his Nairobian roots have inspired his creative talents. Emirates also worked with Sellanga to create the anthem for the pan-African campaign that includes a music video with snippets from all parts of the series.

The music video and song is meant to act as a hero piece for the campaign while the profile films let viewers delve deeper into each creative’s story.

Speaking more about Sellanga’s involvement in the project, Pattinson said: “We worked with Kenyan musician, Blinky Bill, who was also profiled in one of the films to create the music for the campaign. He’s a real talent and was able to translate the original brief into an incredible piece of work. It was always going to be a challenge to create a piece of music that is truly ‘pan-African’ given the sheer number of different musical styles, influences and languages across the continent, but we hope we managed to produce a piece of music that made people feel good and want to get up and dance!”

The campaign roll-out began in February with the short films airing on the BBC World News television channel. The digital launch took place a few weeks later on BBC Reel – the curated global home of BBC’s rich video archive.

“We’ve had a really positive reception so far to the campaign. We share the same view as Emirates in that, it’s impossible to ignore the energy and talent coming out of Africa today – in music, fashion, sport and art – and we wanted them to join the conversation and celebrate amazing, inspiring stories of people constantly pushing boundaries and challenging African stereotypes,” Pattinson says.

“Hopefully we’ve managed to produce something that makes Africans feel a sense of pride, and also something that continues to drive forward the modern positive narrative around the continent and the supreme wealth of incredible talent coming to the fore at the moment,” Pattinson concluded.



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