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Dream Teams: On a Mission to Help Ukraine Rebuild Lives and Preserve Culture

Advertising Agency
London, United Kingdom
Copywriter Samantha Cable and art director Kostia Liakhov from Razorfish Sydney tell LBB’s Esther Faith Lew how creativity can be meaningful
“It all started in the early hours one February morning. 1:30am to be exact. We had just got off the phone after speaking with Kostia’s terrified family, who were in a bunker as Kharkiv was being bombed. At that moment, we decided enough was enough. Having family in Ukraine made the war personal and ignited a fire from deep within,” says Samantha Cable and Kostia Liakhov from Razorfish Sydney. 

For this copywriter and art director duo, being partners in love and craft have forged a strong bond that unites them in all they hold dear in life, and none is as important as the war that is destroying Ukraine. It stirred them to create the Indestructible Donation project, which is an NFT-based campaign that gets crypto donations straight to a Ukrainian charity. 

“In less than five days after the call, we launched the Indestructible Donation comprising a collection of 40 images from local photographers who have documented Ukrainian cities, culture and way of life. These pre-war images are backed up on the blockchain as a digital time capsule that cannot be destroyed by explosions or bombs. So, buying an image as an NFT means you can preserve a piece of history,” say Kostia and Samantha.

Kostia and Samantha collaborated with Kostia’s cousin Artem Melnychuk, who is a photographer, on this project. Artem helped to spread the word by rallying the photography community in Ukraine. “Within 24 hours, we received over 500 images that depict the pre-war beauty of Ukraine; they showed peaceful moments of everyday life such as an afternoon sunset, a game of hockey, or a day at the beach. The Indestructible Donation is not an advertising campaign, but a platform designed to move and provoke,” say the duo.

Over the past few years, Kostia and Samantha have shown how adversity can be redirected and transformed to create positive energies for the greater good. At the initial onset of the pandemic, Kostia and Samantha lost their jobs and were forced to reconsider their place in the industry. “It inspired us to change our thinking. It quickly became apparent that just being a duo who writes headlines and mocks up banners wouldn't take us far. 

“So, we tried our best to branch out our skillset, learning skills and tools in the creative disciplines that would make us a stronger team. We did a lot of work learning screenwriting (Sam even got her Masters), directing, 3D and motion design (Kostia’s superpower), philosophy, tech and game design. Even if we don't always use these skills on a daily basis, it really helps us to understand the craft and know what's possible next time we're working on an interesting campaign,” share Kostia and Samantha.

They have been together for seven years, having first met professionally in Hamburg, Germany, where they bonded over “tough briefs, late nights, and pitch-winning celebrations”. Strengthening that bond as a couple, Kostia and Samantha answered the call of adventure and relocated to Samantha’s home country in Australia where they worked together as a remote creative team. “We’ve floated around the far corners of Australia over the last two years, and are now excited to take our remote working overseas to Lima this winter,” say the duo.

But it was during the pandemic that they decided to work together as a team, and they have not looked back. Aligning their creative prowess at Razorfish ANZ, Kostia and Samantha have built a partnership rooted in trust, honesty and respect. “After seven years of collaboration, at some point, you begin thinking as one. It’s a lovely, fluid approach to build upon each other’s thoughts rather than to tear them down,” say the duo.

As they both grow in professional seniority, their creative mindsets have seen a shift from “hardcore ideation and craft” towards a more open collaborative approach that embraces teamwork and collective contribution. Citing executive creative director Vaughan Townsend as their mentor, Kostia and Samantha credit him with their inspiration for continual learning and growth. The duo is ever mindful of the importance of being passionate about life and in discovering new things. 

Guided by this mindset, they are always exploring new projects and are currently the co-creators for an emerging Australian video game called Copycat. It is an indie game that explores displacement and belonging through the eyes of a cat. 

“We’ve been working on this project for the last year. Although still in development, we are humbled to have 20,000+ wishlists, eight publishing offers, a podcast interview in the works and guest-lectured at the Australian Film Television and Radio School on writing for interactive fiction. You can wishlist it on Steam or follow our journey on YouTube,” share Kostia and Samantha.

Work from Razorfish