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Why Won't They Say Who Funded These Ukraine Ads?
On April 17, I was in London Bridge train station in central London, and couldn’t help but notice that the entire station was blanketed with these digital “Be Brave Like Ukraine” ads. Stylized in a nifty semi-Cyrillic font, the ads feature the classic blue and yellow color scheme that has now become so ubiquitous across “The West” — perhaps most prominently in London, where a local acquaintance told me she’s seen more Ukraine flags on display over the past two months than she ever saw of the UK’s own national flag.
I had a few natural questions upon seeing these ads. First, who crafted them? That answer came quickly: Just go to the “brave.ua” website and you’ll discover the ads were crafted by a consortium within the Ukraine government, including the office of Zelensky.
The answer to other natural questions have not come so quickly, though. Those questions include: Who paid for these ads? How much did they cost? Who organized their placement in some of the most expensive advertising real estate in the world? (They’ve also been displayed in Times Square, among other high-profile locations.)
Strangely, this information has proven difficult to acquire.
First I tried querying the TFL, the government body in charge of transport in London. They had no clue about the ads. Then I tried Network Rail, which runs most of the railways in England. They had no clue either. Finally I tried the massive global advertising agency which apparently owns the digital screens in question, JCDecaux. And… it initially seemed like they might have the answer. I know this because the “Corporate Communications Director” for JCDecaux inadvertently sent me an email where she deliberates with her colleague about how to answer my questions:
Kinda funny that the “Corporate Communications Director” still doesn’t have the hang of communications skills like sending your sensitive internal emails to the right recipient. Either way, this person did not in fact “come back to me tomorrow.” Days passed, and I heard nothing. Then, finally, here was the answer:
Curious, don’t you think? Why would a multinational advertising conglomerate based in France, with branches in the UK, US, and elsewhere, be so skittish about providing basic details about this Ukraine government advertising campaign? Shouldn’t they be proud of it, and therefore happy to provide the details? I thought the message of the ads was to “Be Brave Like Ukraine.” Apparently that “Bravery” doesn’t extend to allowing for transparency in the financial arrangements of these PR maneuvers, which have resulted in “Western” capitals being saturated with imagery that to the naked eye may seem benign — but, functionally, amounts to obvious pro-war propaganda.
Because bear in mind that these government-crafted ads have flooded London, NYC, Washington DC, etc. at the same time as Ukraine officials are furiously lobbying the UK and US governments to ramp up their military involvement in the war. Those lobbying efforts have been incredibly successful, with Respectable Mainstream outfits like The New Yorker finally now admitting that the scale of the US commitment constitutes “a full proxy war with Russia.” (Not so long ago, I was attacked as a peddler of “Putin’s talking points” for using the term “proxy war” on TV.)
It went largely unremarked upon when the head of the Pentagon, flanked by the head of the State Department, transited into Kiev for a secret mission on April 25 — and then hours later, a series of giant explosions ripped through a Russian military logistics hub approximately 90 miles inside Russia. This after US officials began leaking that they would no longer even pretend to recognize any distinction between “defensive” and “offensive” combat operations conducted by the Ukraine military — effectively acknowledging their willingness to provide both weaponry and real-time intelligence to launch attacks on Russia itself.
In the UK, the Armed Services Secretary, James Heappey, followed this up by declaring that it would be “entirely legitimate” for arms delivered by “Western countries” to be used for offensive strikes within Russian territory. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss then went further than even any US official when she declared that total “victory” in Ukraine must also include driving Russia out of Crimea, raising the stakes higher still.
Which each passing week, both these countries adopt a more and more aggressive, bombastic war footing.
Meanwhile, the nice-seeming “Be Brave Like Ukraine” ads are covering major transportation centers. It doesn’t take much elaborate dot-connecting to apprehend that the ads are one facet of the larger PR campaign to draw the US, UK, and other governments further and further into the war. This campaign has been demonstrably effective. And the ad agency which facilitated the ads is choosing to conceal from the public basic details about their provenance — such as who even paid for them. Really makes you think.