Avocado Rise by

Tags: Art Direction and Design, Audiovisual, Brand Journalism, Brand Narrative, Creative Direction and Filmmaking, Creative Direction in Production, Creative Production, Digital Activation, Digital Narratives, Editorial Design, Public Relations, Strategic Communication

Directed by Bernat Mestres
Featuring Yolanda León, INTEC
Executive producers Mario Dávalos, Rafa Martínez, Albert Folch, Pol González Novell, Alberto Espinós, Guillermo Bargu
Produced by White Horse
Tropicfeel rebrand by Folch Studio

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Eldorado is somewhere between an agency and a multichannel platform, designed to facilitate collaboration between brands and a network of traveling creatives and experts in communication, production and editorial design. Often brands try to align themselves with environmental issues as a way of promoting business with a green stamp of approval, without having any substantial transformative results. We work with brands to spread meaningful co-branded messages that change the world. Avocado Rise was no exception. 

An exchange of expertise

Tropicfeel inspires authentic, conscious travel through high quality, sustainable products. The brand wanted to take a step further and activate responsible consumption by raising awareness of a key environmental issue. Eldorado Experience is an editorial platform from Folch telling insightful travel stories in order to preserve the environment. We offered Tropicfeel editorial expertise and a network of creative travellers, while Tropicfeel offered Eldorado the chance to fund a hard-hitting documentary. 

A new kind of partnership

Tropicfeel had been successfully producing and selling their popular, sustainable sneaker via crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. The next step for them was to start producing meaningful content, activating their community on Kickstarter to start thinking about their consumption habits and motivate them to take action. Having been followers of Eldorado, Folch’s long-standing platform for insightful travel narratives, they reached out to us offering the possibility of a partnership. 

FOLCH - Avocado Rise

Open call

Like Tropicfeel, Eldorado embraces people and stories that speak out in defence of the environment, so our values were aligned from the start. We wanted to communicate something in order to change it. To raise awareness of a key issue and consequently encourage people to take action. In order to find a meaningful, impactful story with a focus on an environmental emergency, we first sent out an open call from Eldorado. We finally selected a story uncovered by Mario Dávalos, CEO of Capital DBG, Santo Domingo, executive producer and partner at Eldorado. Mario travels as an artist, writer and photographer to some of the last wild places on Earth, but the Sierra de Bahoruco still holds a special place in his heart. 

 

An environmental emergency

Avocado Rise is a non-profit collaborative documentary reporting on the growing environmental problems in the Sierra de Bahoruco. Sierra de Bahoruco, located in the Dominican Republic and classified as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, is under attack as a result of rising global avocado demand. Illegal charcoal production and agriculture have been added to the list of enemies of one of the most biodiverse forests in the world. For Mario, a Dominican with a great love for the Sierra de Bahoruco, solving this issue was a matter of urgency.

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Saving the cloud forest

Due to a high global demand for avocado –encouraged by social networks and the market tendency to exploit products with a healthy label– there is an exponential increase in the price of avocados. Encouraged by the business opportunities, illegal growers, with the permission of the government, cut down and exploit protected areas. The avocado tree, due to its characteristics, needs a large amount of water to produce its fruits, which results in a very negative effect on these areas. 

FOLCH - Avocado Rise

Climate change is hitting the Caribbean, and the Dominican Republic is facing its most severe drought over the past 30 years. The Bahoruco mountain range is a natural park (biosphere reserve) and the source of the main rivers of that region. This is largely due to its cloud forests, which retain moisture from the air and are capable of producing water without the need for rain. For this reason, their lands are very fertile and are especially punished by logging and illegal cultivation which is producing a water deficit and has completely dried up several river channels in the mountains. 

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A controversial issue

This issue is deeply political. Environmental groups denounce the government’s inaction to protect this reserve and accuse them of collaborating with growers in the construction of roads to the plantations. The environment ministry, a former agriculture minister, denies the damaging effect of avocado cultivation. Other government sources sell avocado farming as a reforestation of damaged areas. 

The right message at the right moment

Activism is the practice of promoting, impeding or directing social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society. Tropicfeel or Eldorado may have been the brands behind the project, but rather than greenwashing or engaging in symbolic action we were focused on generating something substantive and transformative, promoting real, positive and lasting change. To have significant impact we needed to release our message at the right moment and via the right channels. We selected the 28th June as our launch date to engage people directly ahead of the elections in the Dominican Republic, which were scheduled for the following week. In doing so we sparked an online political debate around the issue. 

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Hope for the Sierra de Bahoruco

Avocado agriculture in the Sierra de Bahoruco was already a well known and contentious topic, very much tied into the political debate. It was an honour to be given the opportunity to shine a light on the issue, so important for Dominicans and environmentalists across the world and for many year overlooked by those in power. General elections were held in the Dominican Republic on 5 July 2020. Incumbent President Danilo Medino had connections to the avocado industry, along with Ángel Estévez, incumbent Minister for Environment and Natural Resources. The ruling Dominican Liberation Party’s 16-year rule ended after Modern Revolutionary Party candidate Luis Abinader received a majority. Perhaps there’s still hope for the future of the Sierra de Bahoruco. 

 
 
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Kickstarter's most successful shoe

To raise money to fund the documentary, Tropicfeel and Eldorado launched a kickstarter campaign selling Tropicfeel’s popular sustainable shoe which was voted the most successful Kickstarter shoe last year. The campaign raised more than €75K thanks to pledges from the community. Avocado Rise aims to shed light on an environmental emergency that consumers not only play a part in, but can help put an end to.

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Production from the other side of the world

Avocado Rise was directed by Bernat Mestres and features biologist Yolanda León, research professor of Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC) and specialist in coastal marine environments. We started the pre-production of the documentary in September 2019. After several months of research and meetings we were able to define the style of the documentary and together with the director we began to search for the interviewees. To facilitate on-site production and given we did not know the destination country, we had the help of a local Fixer who helped us move within the Dominican Republic and within the Sierra. 

FOLCH - Avocado Rise

Spreading the message

Due to the coronavirus lockdown, the documentary launch and all communications needed to be done online. For the premiere we decided to live stream the documentary on Tropicfeel’s Youtube and on Eldorado and Tropicfeel’s websites. To start ramping up interest we sent out newsletters from both Eldorado and Tropicfeel with details about the upcoming documentary. Tropicfeel launched a separate landing page with a countdown to the launch. We also posted teaser posts across our social media channels and sent the Tropicfeel sneaker to a number of influencers in return for a social media post about the project. 

Generating international awareness

Before releasing the film on our own channels and in order to gain maximum visibility for the project, we first decided to offer the film as an exclusive to a selection of key international media, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Condé Nast Traveler. The next step was to offer the story more widely to media in the República Dominicana where the story had the most relevance, as well as to national environmental journalists and international trade magazines with a focus on food, the environment, travel or sustainability. 

Successful results with a knock on effect

Avocado Rise was finally published as an exclusive in Condé Nast Traveler, along with an interview with director, Bernat Mestres. Later that day a second extensive article appeared in República Dominicana’s Diario Libre with quotes from Bernat Mestres, Mario Dávalos and Folch. Further coverage is expected over the next few weeks. 

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Art Direction and Design, Audiovisual, Brand Journalism, Brand Narrative, Creative Direction and Filmmaking, Creative Direction in Production, Creative Production, Digital Activation, Digital Narratives, Editorial Design, Public Relations, Strategic Communication.