Webby for Good is a collaborative program formed by The Webby Awards and WP Engine to showcase Webby-recognized projects built to change the world.

What’s the elevator pitch for your project?

On World Refugee Day we launched “Change the course of history,” an online experience that secretly rewrote people’s browser history, to inspire them to act. We created an impactful film showing a string of historical events, while a mysterious number kept growing. What people hadn’t noticed was that we secretly refreshed their browser window and gave each opened page a unique title. By doing this we were able to write a powerful message in their browsing history. So that when we finally prompted viewers to open their browser history we were able to confront them with a powerful message that offered them a chance to act and change the course of history—by donating, or volunteering.

What was the impetus for this project? What real-world challenge were you trying to solve?

History is so riddled with horrifying events that people assume things today are not so bad, while in reality the refugee crisis is the largest it’s ever been and growing every day. This misconception makes people reluctant to act, allowing history to continue its disastrous course. That’s why, when the IRC asked us for a campaign on World Refugee Day, we set out to show people that the only way to change history’s course, is by making a stand.

 

Did your team have a breakthrough or “a-ha” moment while formulating or executing this project?

Because we made the prototype, the biggest hurdle (can we rewrite people’s browser history?) was already taken.

Next to that we obviously needed to overcome different challenges. Every browser history has different specification, so we had to find a way to make a custom experience for each one—while keeping the message the same. Next to that we worked closely with the IRC and Getty Images to find the right refugee data and footage of each historic event.

Once you settled on your idea, what was your first step in moving it forward?

We knew it was technically possible to rewrite people’s browser history, but instead of presenting the idea from a deck, we wanted to let people experience it for themselves. That’s why we immediately started looking for the right team who could build a prototype. It was amazing to see people’s reaction when they discovered the message, they had no idea how we did it. From that moment everybody knew we were on to something.

What technologies/media did you use to develop this project (AI, Social Media, WordPress, etc.)?

The site is entirely built using vanilla javascript, html, and css. We manipulated the history menu by assigning a piece of the story to each page’s title property. For the video animation we used: After Effects, Photoshop, and Audition with the Particular, and Optical Flares plugins. For the programming languages we used some minor After Effects scripting for randomness in certain sections. In Photoshop, we broke source still image apart using masks, and painted/cloned in empty spaces left by separated parts. We imported the PSD into After Effects as a layered comp, and animated separated elements accordingly. The audio editing was done in After Effects and Audition.

Was the tech/medium you chose crucial to conveying your message? If so, why?

Yes it was. Actually, by using people’s browser histories, we created a whole new medium to communicate our message. Billions of data points are created every day in users’ browser histories, but it’s often overlooked, making it a blank canvas for us to deliver our message uniquely and in a vessel that directly drives action. Because if they don’t act… history will continue its current course.

Credits

  • Chief Creative Officer David Lubars BBDO Worldwide
  • Chief Creative Officer Greg Hahn BBDO New York
  • Executive Creative Director Tom Markham BBDO New York
  • Creative Director Pol Hoenderboom BBDO New York
  • Creative Director Bart Pol BBDO New York
  • Art Director Christopher Jindo Kim BBDO New York
  • Copywriter Bree Feibischoff BBDO New York
  • Designer Michele Angelo BBDO New York
  • Executive Producer James Young BBDO New York
  • Art Producer Lizzy Lehn BBDO New York
  • Account Team Evan Duck BBDO New York
  • Account Team Logan Hoffman BBDO New York
  • Account Team Shahnaz Shroff BBDO New York
  • Account Team Berta Teres BBDO New York
  • Senior Developer Nick Russo BBDO Studios
  • Animation Henry Cho BBDO Studios
  • Sound Designer Henry Cho BBDO Studios
  • Editor Henry Cho BBDO Studios
  • Production Company BBDO Studios

About the Public Service & Activism category

Branded content hubs, videos, articles, or native programs that that serve to facilitate political change, public participation in civics, government policies/pursuits, or social activism.