In Finland, Covid-19's Desolation Inspires a Campaign Against Loneliness

'For some, this is how the world has always felt'

In the memorably bleak :45 below, from Finnish NGO HelsinkiMissio, deserted cityscapes filled with unnatural silence reverberate with emotional isolation and despair. We've all become familiar with such images due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For those battling extreme loneliness, however, life always feels empty, even when society brims with hustle and bustle.

Unpeopled footage of Helsinki landmarks including the Savoy Theatre, Senate Square and Ice Hall hockey arena roll by. At one point, a vacant train's explosive intrusion disturbs the stillness with the force of a bomb.

HelsinkiMissio | The Lonely

"For some, this is how the world has always felt," the ad concludes. "Show the lonely they are not alone."

It's a powerful, poignant way to address loneliness, arriving as social distancing fosters empathy (millions of people feel more alone than usual) and, in some cases, makes existence rougher for folks already struggling through each day. As the Covid-19 crisis drags on, those living in the "happiest nation on Earth" face formidable assaults on their psychological well-being.

"We noticed how pictures of streets emptied by Covid-19 started to spread online," says Erno Reinikainen, creative director at TBWA\Helsinki, which devised the campaign. "The New York Times and CNN published extensive reports with similar views."

At the same time, "different media started to bring up the issue of how people, already lonely even before the pandemic, are currently in great danger of becoming socially excluded," Reinikainen says. "Having read and noticed these changes, we realized we could use empty public places to show how lonely people see the streets, even without the state of emergency."

Agency photographer/designer Fanny Haga and editor Ville Hackzell captured the footage in the first few days of Helsinki's lockdown. FLC Helsinki handled post production.

"We hope the people with a social safety net wake up to the reality of the people without one, and volunteer to help," Reinikainen says.

Last week, the agency teamed up with Telia Esports Series to alleviate the Covid-19 blues by helping the Finnish Hockey League stage a playoff series inside EA NHL 20.

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