Morgan Freeman Headlines This Gorgeous Campaign About a Whole New Ocean Species

We've finally created new life!

The World Economic Forum (WEF) says that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This isn't just about big, hulking continents of plastic bags and bottles; we're talking microplastics, the near-invisible particles that stuff eventually becomes, bit by bit.

In April of last year, we learned there was already something like 330 billion pounds of plastic floating in the sea. It even makes its own noise!

Add this to the list of Things to Be Existentially Concerned About. To illustrate its gravity, YouTube, Google, Tribeca Enterprises, the United Nations and Goodby Silverstein & Partners banded together to launch "Life Below Water: The Arrival of a New Species," narrated by Morgan Freeman, whose voice is its own global treasure.

"Dominating every corner of the great sea, the ocean's newest inhabitants are making a permanent mark on life below water," Freeman begins. "They have no brains, teeth or nervous systems. And yet they travel—hundreds of miles, and live for thousands of years."

Of course he's referring to plastics. And while treating them as a new species of organism seems melodramatic, it isn't just a clever piece of narration; it's become a useful research distinction. At an ocean exhibit in Paris's Natural History Museum last winter, microplastics were labeled a new species of microplankton—literally a new foundational basis of the current circle of life. 

Plankton eat them. Fish eat them. Whales and larger predators eat the things that eat them, and so do we. They seep into soil and trees. Some creatures they kill; in instances where creatures don't die, it's too early to say what the effects will be, since plastic can't really be used by our bodies, or break down into anything nutritious. (Some worms seem to like them, though. Bonus silver lining: It makes them poop alcohol!)

Last year, Consumer Reports claimed that Americans ingest 74,000 microplastic particles a year. The World Wildlife Fund, and Australia's University of Newcastle, estimated we consume about five grams a week—a credit card.

"Life Below Water: The Arrival of a New Species" is supported by other videos of shorter length, :15 and :07 variants, organized in what GS&P calls "a proven tease, amplify and echo sequence. Teasers create interest in the full film that follows, while key messages are echoed to those who skip the full feature."

"With attention spans shrinking and a majority of YouTube viewing taking place on mobile devices, a sequential approach to storytelling provides the opportunity to tell stories in easily digestible parts," explains Christine Chen, partner and head of communication strategy at GS&P. 

"For this series, we entice our sequence with a surprising invitation from Morgan Freeman, serve viewers a full-length short film, and conclude with actionable steps people can take to make our oceans cleaner." 

Each video ends with an invitation to "Search Global Goals." Doing this from your search engine of choice (but probably, ideally, Google) leads to a series of ad-supported and SEO-enriched websites designed to educate people about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed upon by world leaders in 2015. 

The "Life Below Water" campaign promotes goal No. 14, also called "Life Below Water." Here are the :15 ad variants. 

Watch a school of cigarette butts swim by.

See bottle caps dance in the fluid they once contained.

This one's about microplastics, glistening under a shaft of water.

Here, a seahorse makes a friend. Hope it's ready for a long relationship!

Below are two unskippable :07 videos.

It isn't really possible to give our time and attention to everything, but this is the beauty of the 17 Global Goals: There are many areas to which people can devote attention and care, including poverty (goal No. 1), education (No. 4), gender equality (No. 5) and more. But if goal No. 14 speaks to you specifically, here's more about it. It's been further collapsed into a series of targets and sub-goals, which makes the problem feel plenty more approachable.

"Life Below Water" (the campaign) will be featured at the UN General Assembly, the Tribeca Film Festival, and Advertising Week 2020, alongside Global Goals campaigns from seven other agencies selected by the UN.

"Ocean pollution has an impact on the food we eat, the air we breathe, land and wildlife across the globe, and our overall health and wellness—not to mention the wide range of social and economic burdens that will grow steadily as the problem gets worse," says Kate Baynham, associate creative director at GS&P. "Every part of our life is affected by the health of our oceans, so ignoring the problem will prove more detrimental than we can imagine."

Ironically, for those of us who enjoyed the less-polluted air in cities during lockdowns, Covid-19 may expedite the speed at which plastic fills oceans. The WEF reported that plastic waste rose from 1,500 tons to 6,300 per day in Thailand, thanks to home food delivery. Illegal waste disposal rose 300 percent in the U.K. 

Below, check out some movie posters that were created for the project.


United Nations
Partnerships Lead, Sustainable Development Goals: Frances Simpson-Allen

Product Marketing Manager: Danielle Landress
Product Marketing Manager: Olivia Jovais
Creative Partnerships Lead: Paul Eyers
Creative Partnerships Lead: Jeff Blankstein
Creative Partnerships Lead: Paula Castro

VP Production: Nina Chaudry

Co-Chairmen: Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein
Chief Creative Officer: Margaret Johnson
Associate Creative Director: Hanna Wittmark
Associate Creative Director: Kate Baynham
Art Director: Eleanor Rask
Copywriter: Trevor Joplin 

Design Director: Ryan Self
Designer: Benny Gold

Account Services 
Managing Partner: Leslie Barrett
Account Manager: Emily Bollier 

Brand and Communication Strategy
Partner, Head of Brand Strategy: Bonnie Wan
Partner, Head of Communication Strategy: Christine Chen
Senior Communications Strategist: Jacob Sperla
Brand Strategist: Darien Ahn

Head of Broadcast Production: Leila Gage
Executive Producer:
Senior Producer: 
Agency Producer: 

Business Affairs
Director of Business Affairs: Judy Ybarra

Production Company
Company Name: Spacestation
Production Company City: New York, NY
Director: Brian Schulz
Director of Photography: Chris Bryan
Executive Producer: Melanie Paul
Executive Producer: Matthew Mills
Production Manager: Ellie Cano
Production Assistant: Allie Fuller
Post-Production Supervisor: Marni Ellis
Editor: Sharika Ajaikumar
Assistant Editor: Chang Wang

Diving Services Director: Robbie Gonzalez
Diving Services Coordinator: Giovanni Gonzalez
Safety Diver: Daniel Alamilla
Safety Diver: Felipe Ancona
Safety Diver: Chuck

Editorial Company
Company Name: Elevel 
Editing Company City: San Francisco
Editor: Graham Willcox
Assistant Editor: Liz Norris    
Director of Elevel: Michael Damiani
Post Producer: Allison Lambert

Audio and Sound Design Company
Music Company name: Elias Music
Music Company City: Los Angeles, CA
Music Composer: Jonathan Elias
Sound Design Company: Lime Studios
Sound Design Company City: Los Angeles, CA
Sound Designer: Joel Waters
Mix Company: Lime Studios
Audio Engineer: Joel Waters
Assistant Mixer: Collin Thomas
Agency Director of Film and Music Curation: Tod Puckett

VFX Company
Company name: Elevel 
Creative Director: Mike Landry
Technical Director: Nathan Shipley
Motion Artist: Luke Davisson

VFX Company 
Company name: a52
VFX Supervisors: Jesse Monsour, Pat Murphy
Flame Artists: Kevin Stokes, John Valle
CG Supervisor: Andrew Romatz
CG Artists: Aemilia Widodo, Ariana Ziae-Mohseni, Joe Paniagua, Michael Bettinardi, Josh Dyer
VFX Producer: Drew Rissman
Executive Producers: Kim Christensen, Patrick Nugent
Managing Director: Jennifer Sofio Hall
Color Company Name: a52 Color
Colorist: Gregory Reese
Senior Color Producer: Jenny Bright
Executive Producer: Thatcher Peterson
Managing Director: Jennifer Sofio Hall

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Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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