McCann London

The Joshua Ribera Foundation
"Depzman - Life Cut Short"

Client: The Joshua Ribera Foundation
Product: The Joshua Ribera Foundation
Title: Depzman - Life Cut Short
Media: Film, Audio
Country: UK
Date Of Campaign: 16 November 2022

Background: Joshua Ribera AKA Depzman was a well-known Birmingham grime rapper on the cusp of stardom, but his life was cut short after he was stabbed to death in 2013. The Joshua Ribera Foundation (‘JRF’) was set up in his name to educate young people - so often the main victims and perpetrators of knife killings - about the issue of knife crime. However, since his death there have been more than 1,877 more killings in the UK. Government initiatives and ad campaigns clearly weren’t working so we needed a way to cut through and get our message heard by.

Idea: Nearly 10 years after his death, Depzman’s story is still raw for the grime community. JRF tapped into this community emotion partnering with SBTV, the UK’s biggest urban music channel & the same platform where Depz rose to fame, to digitally resurrect him as the face of a hard-hitting anti-knife campaign.Using deepfake technology and audio manipulation, Depzman was brought back to life to release one final song titled ‘Life Cut Short’. It shared his story of life and death and delivered a powerful anti-knife crime message through the lyrics. By bringing a stabbed rapper back from the dead to release a new song, this anti-knife message cut through the noise with 188 million impressions. Other campaigns have told the story of people killed by knives, but this campaign used vocal processing and deepfake to digitally resurrect the victim to tell the story through a grime song and music video. We researched Depzman’s old songs and freestyles to create an original song that sounded like him, working with Depzman’s old crew, Invasion, for authenticity. A core vocal was performed by a young Birmingham rapper and this was run through multiple vocal editing processes including formant shifting to digitally alter the sound of every syllable. Old recordings were also merged into the final track. The church setting of the music video made the deepfake even more hard hitting. The hyper-targeted partnership with SBTV ensured the campaign reached and was shared by our key audience of young people and gave the campaign the authenticity it needed to infiltrate culture. Th campaign was first teased with OOH in his Birmingham hometown and on Depzman’s old Instagram (18k followers). A week later, on the anniversary of his funeral, the music video dropped on SBTV and was widely PR’d for a month. The music video and song will remain on SBTV’s YouTube channel Spotify and major music platforms forever.

Results: On launch day this video had 2 million impressions across social media, with a final campaign total reach of 188 million impressions, bringing Depzman’s story back into the headlines and social feeds. The hyper-targeted media push ensured it reached our key audience of young people, with the grime community adopting, self-seeding and sharing it across channels, hitting 6 million plays in 2 weeks across YouTube, TikTok and Spotify – ranking #11 on YouTube’s trending videos. The video was shared by musicians like Skepta and Jaykae which helped get the song on BBC radio. The campaign was featured on BBC News, ITV, Channel 4, The Sun and the Daily Mail. The music video has now been shown to 30,000 school kids in youth violence workshops and is being used by the UK prison network as an educational asset in 65 prisons, acting as a deterrent to inmates and a warning of the lost potential that carrying a knife can lead to.‘Life Cut Short’ sparked a renewed interest in the issue of knife crime and became part of Depzman’s legacy, encouraging young people to put down knives and avoid the tragic consequences.

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