Grief is to mortals what the boulder is to Sisyphus: a never-ending cycle that you accept will always be part of you.
Timed to the Jan. 14 premiere of the final season of the Ricky Gervais show After Life, Netflix tapped agency made by blah for a campaign that drives healthy conversations about the show and how it tackles grief. The result was permanent, in the form of 25 benches—a key motif in the series—placed throughout the U.K.
The agency partnered with suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) to create the "Benches of Hope." Each is inscribed with a quote from the show, "Hope is everything," along with a QR code that brings visitors to the CALM website for resource information.
Muse caught up with Jim Townsend and Oli Cole, founders and executive creative directors of made by blah to learn more about the campaign and how it came to life.
Muse: How did you come up with the concept and how did you decide where to put the park benches?
Oli Cole: The bench is iconic and is the setting for a lot of the poignant moments throughout all three seasons of After Life. It just made sense for us to bring it to life in the real world and make a legacy piece that lives on long after the show. We wanted the benches to be installed nationwide, so Netflix liaised with local councils around the U.K. The show is set in a small town, so it made sense to echo that with many local installations, not just the big cities. Ricky lives in Hampstead and a lot of the show is filmed there, so it made sense to put one there.
How did the partnership with CALM come about?
Jim Townsend: We partnered with Netflix production and suggested we find a way to get local communities and charities working together. It's the perfect partnership, because the show has helped people to stop feeling ashamed or embarrassed about discussing their emotions, and this is exactly what they try to do at CALM.
How important was this partnership to the campaign?
Oli Cole: The ultimate success would be if they are able to help someone if they’re struggling. CALM has the help, advice and information for people that are struggling, so in this sense the partnership is absolutely crucial.
What appears when a person scans the QR code?
Jim Townsend: Those who visit a bench can access resources from CALM via a unique QR code with the wording "Life can be tough, but there’s always hope. Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is by your side."
Were there any challenges in creating the campaign?
Oli Cole: Creatively the hardest challenge was to come up with an idea that tied into the sensitivities of the show and made sense. To make something really worthwhile that’s authentic and, like the show does, can potentially help people. The challenge was to achieve all that and also create something that left a legacy and lives on.
What do you hope the campaign accomplishes?
Jim Townsend: We hope the benches will create a long-lasting legacy for After Life and are places where people can reflect, talk to someone and get things off their chest. We hope they help people have those conversations and to show it's normal to have those feelings.
Ashford, Victoria Park, TN23 4QA
Bath, Sydney Gardens, BA2 6NH
Birmingham, Cofton Park, B45 8UN
Bristol, Ashton Court, BS41 9JN
Cardiff, Parc Cefn Onn, CF14 0EP
Cardiff, Victoria Park, CF5 1EZ
Edinburgh, Calton Hill, EH1 3BJ
Falmouth, Gyllyngdune Gardens, TR11 4LY
Glasgow, Glasgow Green, G1 5QA
Liverpool, Stanley Park, L21 9JR
Liverpool, Woolton Walled Gardens, L25 7TX
London, Highgate Wood, N10 3JN
London, Parliament Hill, NW3 2TA
London, Queens Park, NW6 6SG
London, Ravenscourt Park, W6 0TZ
London, Rookery Gardens and Woodland, SW16 3HR
London, York House Gardens, TW1 3DD
Manchester, Wythenshawe Park, M23 0AB
Minehead, Blenheim Gardens, TA24 5QA
Newcastle, Exhibition Park, NE2 4PZ
Nottingham, Arboretum, NG7 4HF
Nottingham, Highfields Park, NG7 2RD
Surrey Heath, Lightwater Country Park, GU18 5RG
Taunton, Vivary Park, TA1 3SX
Final bench, TBD
Agency: made by blah
Executive Creative Directors: Oli Cole and Jim Townsend