We had the power to change the world. And only nine days to do it.

The United Nations (UN) put a global call-out to creatives to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The brief? Create critical public health messages to engage and inform people across different cultures, languages, communities and platforms. And no pressure, but they were already taking submissions.

On 31 March, Wordbankers from both our Denver and London offices met over Zoom. With our best creative and collaborative hats on, we had just nine days to agree, create and upload our creative. If shortlisted, our work would be used to reach everyone, everywhere. Could we meet the deadline? Of course – we’re Wordbank.


There were six key messages in the UN brief for us to choose from:

  • Personal hygiene
  • Physical distancing
  • Know the symptoms
  • Spread kindness
  • Myth-busting
  • Solidarity

We instinctively selected Spread Kindness because it chimed with our values and agency culture. We agreed kindness should look the same in every language. Could we illustrate it globally, sensitively and meaningfully?

For over thirty years, we’ve been helping brands shape global messaging so it resonates locally. We know words, in every language. And we know people, across the world.

Drawing on our unique combination of creative talent, cultural insight and storytelling prowess, we were inspired to design a universal “Language of Kindness”. And we were confident we could pull it off with the right mix of content, language and culture.


Given the tight deadline, we had to quickly agree on content that would work in multiple countries. We chose the simple instruction “Be Kind” – to yourself and others – by staying home, staying connected and staying strong. We’re not stuck at home. We’re safe at home.

Next we briefed our amazing design team, who suggested we introduce a superhero. What better way to demonstrate staying home to protect others, staying in touch with friends and family and staying strong (physically, emotionally and mentally)? These are heroic acts we can all do.


Once we had the concept locked down, we turned our attention to language. We selected ten languages from the 18 in the UN’s brief: US English, Mexican Spanish, German, French, Italian, Arabic, Hindi, Thai, Japanese and Turkish. (Without the deadline, we would have chosen them all.) And we reached out to our global network of linguists for help with translation and adaptation.

In our next meeting, ambitions running high, we agreed on a multilingual and multicultural GIF format. Each GIF would cycle through the acts of kindness in one language, with a master GIF going through all ten languages. Our superhero and the backdrop would change depending on the country. And we had only four days to go…


Conscious our linguists had only seen copy out of context so far, we shared our work-in-progress GIFs and entered into multiple rounds of improvements. “Too many skyscrapers”; “No dogs, thank you”; “Skin tone is wrong”; “No flags, please”; “Tone of voice too formal”. With each copy or visual change, we adjusted the layout to fit.

We worked around the clock to shorten, simplify and share again, until the blend of content, language and culture was spot on. And we were ready to submit our work.


From the thousands of artists who worked to support the UN’s fight against COVID-19, our US English, Mexican Spanish, Thai, Turkish, Hindi, Japanese, German, French and Arabic GIFs were shortlisted. We couldn’t be more proud.

Proud of the Wordbank can-do attitude and inter-office collaboration that made an impossible deadline possible. Proud of our linguists who freely gave their time to support us. Proud of the global knowledge we’ve gathered over the years. Proud of how we continue to harness our curiosity to create content that works – and wows. And above all, proud we were able to play our part in the fight against COVID-19.


We can do more than this, of course. We can research markets and profile audiences to deliver winning marketing strategies; define or refine brands to make sure they’re fit to travel. And we can optimize, amplify and measure content to make sure it achieves global success.

But for now, we’re going to enjoy our beautiful designs – and hope you do, too. If you’d like us to sprinkle some of our global magic on one of your projects, please get in touch.

ABOUT Zoey Cooper

I’m a global content and brand strategist, with more than 15 years' experience researching, planning, delivering and testing content and brand solutions across multiple regions, languages and platforms. I love words. And I love culture. And I believe that the right combination of these two essential ingredients will deliver content that is not only on brand, but will engage customers and drive sales.

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