Dawn of Life

//  02.17.22


Broken Heart Love Affair Debuts Eerie New Cinema Spot for Royal Ontario Museum

Atmospheric campaign is promoting the Toronto cultural institution’s first new gallery in 10 years.

It’s an ad campaign that’s literally four billion years in the making. Toronto cultural institution the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is promoting its first new gallery in more than 10 years with an atmospheric spot from agency partner Broken Heart Love Affair that gives voice to the questions surrounding some of life’s biggest mysteries.

The ROM’s Willner Madge Gallery, Dawn of Life, is a state-of-the-art 10,000 square-foot gallery that houses a collection of nearly 1,000 fossil specimens drawn from the museum’s palaeontology collections. It is home to some of the oldest objects on Earth, including one dozen “evolutionary gamechangers” that speak to key moments in the evolution of life as it exists today.

The 60-second spot, directed by BHLA creative directors Spencer Ryan and Jordan Hamer, conveys just some of those mysteries. It shows a young boy visiting the gallery with his mother and touching an ancient rock that is among its oldest artifacts.

As soon as he touches it, another version of himself representing his inner thoughts appears at his side and begins whispering a flurry of questions in his ear: “How old is life itself?” “Where did we come from?” “Did all life begin the same?”

Created in partnership with Undefined/Radke Films, the cinematic spot blends live action with a subtle but effective visual treatment from Darling VFX and immersive audio design from OSO Design to create a spot set somewhere between reality and the imagination.

“Our goal with any of our work is to get people to stop and think, and maybe change some people’s perspectives,” says Ryan of the creative approach that he and Hamer took to the campaign.

The Willner Madge Gallery, Dawn of Life first opened in October, but was closed shortly thereafter because of Covid restrictions. The closure afforded the team at Broken Heart Love Affair an opportunity to extensively scout the location ahead of shooting, which is not typical for public institutions like the ROM.

“It was a luxury to have access to the ROM to scout early and often, which is far from normal” says Hamer. “That helped us plan our day to fit into a tight schedule. And to see our first self-directed effort go out into the world as a 60-second cinema piece was really something special.”

The spot is running in cinema as well as through programmatic and social channels. The campaign also includes cut-downs taken from the original 60-second anchor spot. Media for the campaign was handled by OMD. The campaign comes as Covid restrictions are lifting and the ROM has reopened to the public.


Title: Dawn of Life
Client: Royal Ontario Museum
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer: Lori Davison
VP, Brand and Marketing: Kathryn Brownlie
Marketing Specialist: Kaitlyn Olo

Creative Agency: Broken Heart Love Affair
Chief Creative Officer: Carlos Moreno, Denise Rosetto, Todd Mackie
Chief Strategy Officer: Jay Chaney
Chief Business Officer: Bev Hammond
Creative Director: Jordan Hamer, Spencer Ryan
Writer: Jordan Hamer
Art Director: Spencer Ryan
Agency Producer: Erica Metcalfe
VP, Client Success: Joline Matika

Production Company: Undefined / Radke
Director: Spencer and Jordan
Executive Producer: Dan Ford
Producer: Julian Weiman
Director of Photography: Shady Hanna
Assistant Director: Keith Giesbrecht
Production Manager: Erwin Abesamis
Coordinator: David Benchitrit
Covid Screener: Chelsea Maiato, Lucas Bender

Editing House: Saints
Editor: Chris Chang
Executive Producers: Michelle Rich, Mackenzie Goodwin

Post-Production House: Darling
Colourist: Kassi Bellamy
Colour Assistant: Will Culverwell, Eric Kingsbury
Executive Producer: Kristen Van Fleet
Producer: Morgan Campbell

Visual Effects: Fort York VFX
Flame Artist: Melissa Vasiliev
Producer: Valerie Moss

Audio House: OSO
Creative Director: Daenen Bramberger
Executive Producer: Hannah Graham

Media Agency: OMD

Curious Child: Arjen Liu-Ernsting
Mom: Jessie Liu-Ernsting
Curious Child Stand In: Isaac Ng