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The rise of personal tech may be diminishing our ability to empathise with the people we share our world with. But storytelling can bypass this self-absorption by putting the audience in other people’s shoes. In its #SeeYourselfInOthers campaign, the Tribeca Film Festival aims to inspire people to show empathy to others. We discover the insights behind the ad, and how businesses are finding different ways to encourage people to show a little more empathy.

Created by DDB New York, the spot shows New Yorkers from different class, and cultural and religious backgrounds with mirrored cubes over their heads, walking the city streets into places where they might typically be seen as ‘other’. Upon encountering these unfamiliar characters, real life passers-by are literally forced to confront their own reflection in the mirrored cubes, hence the ‘See Yourself in Others’ campaign title.

A good story can easily inspire empathy
Tribeca (2017) ©

With organisations and individuals alike constantly vying for attention, research suggests that people have become somewhat desensitised to the experiences of others and Gen Y have even been been branded as a generation that is unable to love. Another study of 14,000 US college students found that in 2010, empathy had declined 40% when compared to the same study’s results from three decades prior. Tribeca’s spot is demonstrative of the brand’s understanding of this shift – and an attempt to try to change it.

"Stories put us in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations and force us to confront other points of view," says Icaro Doria, chief creative officer at DDB New York, which produced the campaign. "Once we're inside, the universal human truths we find there help us find ourselves – even in faraway places and radically different cultures. More than ever, we need these stories and we need this empathy." America is a country divided, but rather than take sides – as many brands have in the past few months – the ‘See Yourself in Others’ campaign cleverly engages with the problem without alienating anyone or forcing them to choose.

Katy Young is behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. She has a degree in American Studies and Film and an MA in Journalism. Her interests include wild swimming, thinking of podcast ideas and singing in an all-female choir.


08 May 17
2 min read

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