by MarkLives (@marklives) This week we feature insight into the brief, creative idea and production challenges of the “The Light at the Start of Everything, Written by Iain Thomas” campaign for The Okavango Blue from agency TBWA\Hunt Lascaris. The Okavango Blue is a rare and large Fancy Deep Blue stone, owned by the Okavango Diamond Company but due to be put up on the market later this year.

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Client: Okavango Diamond Company
Ad agency: TBWA\Hunt Lascaris
Title: The Light at the Start of Everything, Written by Iain Thomas, for The Okavango Blue

Information supplied by TBWA\Hunt Lascaris.


There are three requirements for the project:

  1. Position Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) as an important player in the diamond seller market.
  2. Position and profile the stone ahead of the sale later this year.
  3. Use the stone to paint a positive picture of Botswana.

Creative summary

The film features real people of Botswana, because the stone belongs to them. The Okavango Diamond Company is a government-owned entity, so the proceeds of the sale of the diamond will go directly to the funding of hospitals, schools, infrastructure and conservation in this African country.

Knowing that their diamonds are ethically sourced has become non-negotiable for discerning consumers around the world. However, although consumers have evolved, diamond marketing has not. Since De Beers coined the phrase “A diamond is forever” in the 1930s, diamonds have become an emblem of lasting love. The category is generally based on a man-made narrative.

We wanted to disrupt the status quo by telling the remarkable, and sometimes unfathomable, story of the stone itself.

“The Light at the Start of Everything” is a visual poem written by Iain Thomas for The Okavango Blue, the remarkably rare and largest Fancy Deep Blue diamond that has ever gone to market. The film explores the stone’s origin and the magical, unspoilt land of Botswana to which it belongs. In contrast with the three-billion-year existence of the stone, it reflects on the transient nature of our human lives, and reminds us that the light inside the diamond is the same light that resides in us. We all come from the same eternal something. The Okavango Blue is a way to hold that ‘something’ in your hands.


The Light at the Start of Everything collage 01The film was shot over five days on location in Botswana by Kim Geldenhuys of 0307 Films.

Iain Thomas, renowned poet and writer

“For the poem, I wanted to find a way to talk about time and why the stone is special, because it sits outside of time. I’ve recently had my second child,and, as every parent knows, time becomes incredibly tangible as soon as you have kids. You start to notice the difference between years — they start to mean something very real — and moment to moment you notice how things change. You ask questions: How long do I have here with them? Have I done enough? Am I the person I wanted to become? These are very human questions, and I think they create a kind of existential anxiety around life. So the poem, for me, was a way to look at that and ask if something that stands outside of time, if something eternal, eases that anxiety. The poem is a way to look for peace, for reassurance that, even though our time here is limited, we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves. Our story doesn’t start with us; it starts with the first light that shone in the darkness of the universe. So our job here isn’t to obsess over time or to waste it. Our job is to forget time; to ride the wave, just like all our ancestors did. And I think, when you look at something truly eternal, it reminds you of that.”

Peter Khoury, TBWA\Hunt Lascaris CCO

“It has been interesting dealing with a client who resides in a different market while trying to get approvals of the work using various forms of technology, which are not always stable. We didn’t get to see the stone until very late in the project, and the details of the stone were also shared late, so we were relying a lot on the interpretation of information in order to be in a position to execute; however, all things turned out well.

“Shooting on location in Botswana was very special, because it is a land of such natural beauty and people.”

Kim Geldenhuys, 03:07 Films director

“Working within a visual collage of people, animals and landscapes meant we were not absolutely sure of what we would be able to shoot going into Botswana. Seasonal weather plays a role as to the location of animals and the nature of the landscapes. Even between our recces and the shoot the landscapes had altered. However, this measure of uncertainty offers opportunities within itself and we took them where we could.

“We had a strong visual treatment and a sense of the tone and wonder that the poem required. It was to this guiding principle we stuck to when finding our shots. Our shooting team was small and this kept us mobile and concentrated in our efforts. Right up to the moment we arrived at the Flamingo location, we were not sure that they would be there. But luck was on our side and we got the dawn shot we wanted.

“During our shooting process, Wicked Pixels worked on the creation of the upfront sequence showing the birth of the stone. We took creative licence on this with a focus on the visual aesthetic and metaphor for the light at the start of everything. A huge part of the final creation of this piece was always going to be music and instinctively we felt that Nic van Reenen of Field Sound would grasp the requirements and we weren’t disappointed.”

The Light at the Start of Everything collage 02Resources

The project was briefed to the agency in the last quarter of 2018, with a media launch date set for 17 April 2019, and the sale of the stone only scheduled for late 2019. The challenge is to communicate the stone in multiple markets: Botswana, South Africa, Africa, UAE, China, India, Japan, UK, and USA.



Okavango Diamond Company
Managing director: Marcus ter Haar


TBWA\Hunt Lascaris
Chief creative officer: Peter Khoury
Creative director: Steph van Niekerk
Creative group head: Coenraad Grebe
Copywriters: Iain Thomas, Steph van Niekerk
Art director: Coenraad Grebe
Agency producer: Sandra Gomes
Strategy: Candice Blumenthal
Designer: Ross Thornton-Dibbs (Grid)
Client service: Bridget Langley


Production company: 03:07
Director: Kim Geldenhuys
Producer: Jo Barber
DOP: Fabian Vettiger

Post production & animation company: Wicked Pixels
Visual effects artist: Gavin Coetzee
Post producer: Gabriella Harris

Sound design company: Sterling Sound
Sound engineer: Lorens Persson

Post-production company: Strangelove Studios
Editor: Xander van der Westhuizen

Post-production company: The Refinery
Colourist: Kyle Stroebel

Music design company: Field
Composer: Nicolaas van Reenen

The Light at the Start of Everything screengrab



MarkLives logo#Campaigns is the new weekly MarkLives column featuring insight into the brief, creative idea, production challenges and results of South African communication campaigns, both ongoing and recent. Have a campaign worthy of being featured in #Campaigns? Submit a short motivation to 2mark and we may well be in touch. Please include links to campaign material, when it ran/is running and why you believe it should be featured.

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