I'm no Einstein, but one day he might be

PETER YORK ON ADS
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The Independent Culture
No 208: THE UN COMMISSION FOR REFUGEES

THE "PROBLEM" with refugees, as with many other groups of disadvantaged people for whom charities collect, is that they're mostly poor and often black or brown, and so can evoke those familiar racist, poor-ist, charity- begins-at-home reactions. Gypsies aren't popular in Dover and political refugees are always being accused of being purely economic ones (would they really be murdered in their own country?). It's all an area of very dark emotions - which means, in turn, that it's a classic advertising problem.

The classic advertising response has been to show only the most delightful or deserving of the disadvantaged - ie children - and get straight to the heart.

But the United Nations Commission for Refugees takes a different line - that refugees can grow up to be very distinguished people - and concentrates on easy hits - famous people, mainly dead, who could be argued to be refugees. The great source of historic figures here is the European intelligentsia between the wars, most of it Jewish. We know Britain and America gained hugely from the tide that brought Freud, Einstein, Solti and Kissinger.

The UN Commission has dramatised its argument very professionally, with golden-sepia period reconstructions worthy of a high- spending bank or building society. Thus we get a turn-of-the-century ghetto playground - big hats, braces, long shorts - and a legend saying "Sigmund Freud ... psychologist". Interwoven are images of contemporary African children (the footballer George Weah was a refugee).

The message is compelling and self-interested: you never know who a refugee child may grow up to be; and refugees are a net again to their refuges. To tug at every last liberal nerve, the music-over is Marlene Dietrich's "Where have all the flowers gone", and the final shot is of a little girl looking very much like those photographs of Dietrich in Berlin in 1907.

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