Leo Burnett brings free speech to Ecuadorians with site that repurposes president's words

"MashiMachine" creates video mashups of Rafael Carrea's speeches, letting citizens say things they otherwise couldn't

In highly censored Ecuador, a new online platform called "MashiMachine" lets people speak freely — using the president's own words.

"MashiMachine" creates a video message using clips from the speeches of Ecuadorian president Rafael Carrea, who is famous for his attack on journalists and the censorship of media in his country. Users can type in any phrase they want and the app will produce a video mashup of the president saying those words. The platform pulls from a library of 10,000 Spanish words and thousands of video clips aggregated from public sources. Users can then choose to share the video via social media. For example, one video posted on social media has Correa saying, "Enough lies. I am a sad thief."

"MashiMachine" promotes 4Pelagatos, an independent news site started in January by three of the country’s top journalists after they were fired for criticizing the government.  (Correa once dismissed his opposition as "four insignificant nobodies," or "quatro pelagatos," thus the name.) The news site’s mission is the practice of true, unbiased journalism with a large dose of irreverence. The publication's tagline is, "Por la lucidez, desobediencia, ironía y obstinación" (For clarity, disobedience, irony and obstinacy).

One of the co-founders of 4Pelagos, Martín Pallares, turned to Leo Burnett Mexico to create the "MachiMachine" platform. The agency’s chief creative director, Daniel Pérez Pallares, is his cousin.

Pérez Pallares said the idea behind the platform is that, since Ecuador's president is the de facto single voice in the country,  "You put the voice of this guy in the hands of the people."   

Freedom of the press is nonexistent in Ecuador. A 2013 law allows the government to regulate media, and journalists have been imprisoned for defamation. In September 2015, the National Secretariat of Communications of Ecuador shut down Fundamedios, an organization dedicated to free speech that acted as a media watchdog. For many, the main source of news is a four-hour, Saturday broadcast hosted by the president.

While the Ecuadorian government has successfully shuttered many media outlets, and has sent cease-and-desist orders to 4Pelagatos, it isn't able to shut the site down because it's hosted on Amazon web servers in the United States. The site is legal, according to US law, because it uses publicly available video.

In the most popular "MashiMachine" video, Correa says, "Monday, taxes. Tuesday, taxes. Wednesday, taxes. Thursday, taxes. Friday, taxes. Saturday, insults." The last sentence refers to the way Correa insults those who oppose him in his weekly broadcasts.

Leo Burnett Mexico, based in Mexico City, won a Grand Prix for P&G Always "Intimate Words" at the 2015 Cannes Lions Health Awards. It's also repositioning the global branding of Corona with a new campaign called "Desfronterízate."

Since MashiMachine went live at the end of April, more than 138,000 videos have been created, and the most popular has been shared over 1,000 times. The site has received 1.8 million pageviews to date and garnered 156 million social media impressions, making it one of the most-visited sites in Ecuador and the largest viral campaign in Ecuador's history, the agency said.

Pérez Pallares adds, "It's a simple idea, but it's something big. Because the problem is a really big problem."

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