Cannes Lions

Martian Stamp

GOVERNMENT OF UAE MEDIA OFFICE, Dubai / THE UAE GOVERNMENT MEDIA OFFICE / 2021

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Overview

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Overview

Background

On the 20th of July 2020, the Emirates Mars Mission launched the Hope Probe. A testament to the UAE’s relentless ambition that culminated in the first-ever Arab interplanetary space mission. On the 9th of February 2021, the Hope probe was to complete its 7-month and 493.5 million kilometre-journey to the Red Planet.

But the probe’s entry into the Martian orbit was the most dangerous part of its voyage. Just before entering the orbit, the probe had to go through a 30-minute ‘dark’ period, with no contact from the on-ground team, and perform automated maneuvers that will push it into the orbit.

Irrespective of the outcome of the probe’s Orbit Insertion, 9th February marked a major milestone not just for the UAE but for the entire Arab world. We wanted to celebrate it and spread the news with something that’s equally remarkable.

Idea

To commemorate the arrival of Hope Probe to Mars on the 9th of February 2021 and celebrate this historic milestone for the Arab world and humanity, we wanted to give people a symbolic souvenir, straight from Mars.

We created 'The Martian Stamp', a passport stamp printed with a specially formulated limited-edition ink that is extracted from volcanic basalt rocks, the same minerals that give the Red Planet its distinct rusty colour.

An emblem of the country’s unwavering ambition and guiding principle that “Impossible is Possible”, the stamp welcomed all UAE visitors with a memorable reminder of this new era for Arabs in time and space and a special message:

“You’ve arrived in the Emirates. The Emirates is arriving at Mars on 09.02.2021. Printed with Martian Ink.”

Strategy

The Hope Mars Mission is a huge turning point, not only for the UAE but for the entire Arab world. This was the moment when we could make the world look at the UAE beyond its oil-rich luxury, tall skyscrapers and vast deserts.

The UAE was about to make history as only the fifth nation in the world and the first Arab country to successfully launch an inter-planetary mission. 9th February was about to get transformed from being just another day to a date that marks a landmark moment.

We wanted people across the region and the world, irrespective of their age or gender, to take notice of this important day and remember it for many more years to come. We wanted to celebrate the arrival of the Hope Probe to Mars by giving people a taste of Mars itself, to those arriving in the UAE.

Execution

There’s no set formula to create ink from volcanic basalt rocks. We had to simultaneously learn and adapt. The volcanic basalt rocks, which give Mars its rusted red look, can also be found in the Mleiha desert in the UAE. Special missions were conducted by experts and geologists to collect the rocks.

The rocks were ground with a mechanical jaw crusher. The resulting crushed rock sand was then put through a vibrating pulveriser to crush the sand into fine dust. We then carefully extracted pigments from the powdered red sand. And that’s how the first-ever Martian ink was born.

After thorough testing, it was ready to be stamped on the paper surface of passports in the shape of the final design that we created specifically for this stamp.

The process of developing the stamp took 4 weeks in total, starting from the idea creation all the way through execution.

Outcome

The unique passport stamp immediately got the attention of global media from over 120 countries covering it, garnering a reach of over 1.5 billion unique visitors.

The list includes some of the most popular names in international and regional media like CNN, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Financial Express, Independent, Yahoo News, MSN, Saudi Gazette, Nerdist, US News, Space and AFP.

The Martian passport stamp surprised thousands of visitors arriving in the Emirates on 9th Feb and they couldn’t resist sharing it on social media.

Owing to the resounding success of the idea and the remarkable reactions of travelers at the airports, what was initially planned to be a 1-day activation only for travelers who landed in the UAE on the day of the Hope Probe’s arrival at Mars has been extended till the end of 2021.

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