Creatives In Exile: enabling stranded Ukrainian creatives to find work

by Mark Tungate , AdForum

Svetlana Ćopić (left) and her friend Slava Denys, who inspired the project


Serbian creative Svetlana Ćopić is the driving force behind Creatives In Exile, a new organization set up to find freelance work for Ukrainian advertising talents who’ve been forced to leave their country. 

Creatives In Exile was inspired by her friend Slava Denys, creative director at Cheil Ukraine, who left her home in Kyiv with her daughter to take refuge in Poland (with only a suitcase and a cat). Svetlana says: “When I found out that Slava had to leave her country, leaving her possessions, her job and her safety behind, I knew I had to do something. It was soon clear that hundreds of Ukrainian creatives have found themselves in the same situation. But wherever they ended up being at the moment, they have taken all their skills, creativity and experience with them.”

The Creatives in Exile platform provides international agencies with an easy way of distant-hiring Ukrainian creatives and showing solidarity with the country’s advertising community, she explains. 

“If anything, Covid has taught us that we can work from anywhere in the world. And I am sure all creative directors know the value of bringing a fresh perspective to a project. I mean, you think you have a tough brief? These are the people that are opposing Putin. You could use their help!”


Rebuilding safety


Slava Denys used her own contacts to find the first people on the platform. Since then it’s grown organically by word-of-mouth and recommendations. “New creatives are joining in regularly, so we expect the base to keep growing now that we have launched,” Svetlana adds.

The network covers many countries who’ve welcomed Ukrainian refugees. “Some of them have already changed countries twice. It’s really difficult to start rebuilding some safety in a new, foreign place from scratch. I hope Creatives in Exile can make that process at least a bit easier.”

Svetlana set up the project as part of her existing No Agency initiative, which she describes as “a cross-national, cross-agency network of creatives gathered around the goal of creating ideas that add value to society and culture”. 

“I must say, one of our team members was a ‘creative in exile’ herself during the war in former Yugoslavia, so we had an additional motivation and sense of urgency to make this happen.”