As the internet was becoming obsessed in recent weeks with FaceApp’s new photo-aging feature, three McCann New York creatives realized that the platform can be used to make a visual statement about the impact of police actions and gun violence. Senior designer Emely Perez came up with the initial idea to honor victims like Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garner and others by using FaceApp to show what each might look like at older ages.
After connecting with McCann New York vp and creative director Gabrielle Shirdan and freelance creative director Dabo Ché, the trio landed on #ItsGettingOld, a project that lives on Instagram. Each image altered by FaceApp includes a brief summary of a news article explaining how each person was killed.
“I wanted to use the technology available in the app to make a visual statement by showing the impossible: images of the older versions of these victims,” said Perez, a City Tech graduate, previously a senior designer at JWT and responsible for designing the MAIP logo, the program that kickstarted her industry career. “Though it is heartbreaking, our goal is to get as many people to see this as possible because we feel it is necessary.”
Adweek caught up with Perez and Shirdan to ask them a bit more about the project.
Adweek: How do you hope to elevate this project and, more importantly, the message?
Emely Perez: It is imperative that we keep these black peoples’ name and legacy alive and in the conversation towards justice. Racial violence in this country is as old as this country. We cannot allow it to be normalized and unexposed. This project was meant to use the velocity of this trend to put public attention on this life-and-death issue—a creative jiujitsu move. The hope is to continue to push this on platforms and ensure the conversation doesn’t fade until another fatality. The cycle is part of the conversation.
How will you consider this project a success?
Perez: We hope to inspire action. Whether voting, protesting, creating … whatever people feel they can be motivated to do. This is going to take more than just creative and conversation. Justice will be served when it is forced to. We want people to continue to say their names. We want their faces in museums and history books.
How do you feel others can build on this start? What can people contribute?
Perez: Our most valuable commodity is our time. It’s more valuable than money. Get involved and get loud. We were creative, nimble and scrappy. We used technology that many thought of as silly and fun. We turned it on its head and used it to make a serious statement. The tools are there.
What is most rewarding about creating this kind of work?
Perez: This kind of work makes people think differently. For this project, specifically, the hope is for people to put their own fears of aging into perspective and to start seeing aging as a luxury not everyone gets to experience. Most importantly, we hope people stop treating something as heartbreaking as the death of black people in the U.S. as they do a popular app, [where they] talk about it for a little then inevitably forget.
Gabrielle Shirdan: We do this kind of thinking for brands and big businesses, but we often forget about ourselves and our culture. The hope is that we are honoring the lives and the families of these victims. It’s so rewarding to see ideas like this from bold designers like Emely and to pour our souls into something we have so much heart for that hits home. As creatives, we owe this to the culture. As creative leaders, we push our teams to be culturally relevant (even more, culturally respectful). To reflect the world we serve, it’s imperative that the creatives crafting those ideas mirror it as well.
How has the agency supported you on, not just this project, other passions that you have that blend work/life?
Perez: From our teams to our ecd and global creative chairman, we’ve received love, and some have even reposted, which feels great. We try to work an impactful idea like this into every brief if it fits and feels right.
What do projects like this say about the responsibility of creative people and, by extension, agencies, in making a real difference in society and the world?
Perez: As creatives, we are born or trained to think like this. We pushed off the popularity and controversy of this “of-the-moment” trend to bring attention to this age-old affliction. Here’s to making more meaningful work in the world—for our clients, ourselves and our culture. To quote A Bronx Tale: “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” We help mold public opinion and affect behavior. You’re either using that power for good, or you’re not.