If London Were Syria

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If London Were Syria
Directed byMartin Stirling
Written byRichard Beer, Martin Stirling
StarringLily-Rose Aslandogdu
Distributed bySave The Children
Release date
5 March 2014
Running time
93 seconds
CountryUnited Kingdom

If London Were Syria, titled on YouTube Most Shocking Second a Day Video,[1][2][3] is a 93-second charity commercial, created by Don't Panic London for Save The Children UK, marking the third anniversary of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War.[4] It features a young British girl experiencing the effects of a hypothetical civil war on the streets of London. Everything depicted in the video was based on the factual accounts of children in Syria.[5] The video's purpose is to depict the lives of children growing up surrounded by war, in order to bring attention to young people caught up in the Syrian Civil War.[6][7]

The video was shot over the course of two days, and combines the second-a-day and photo-a-day video formats, featuring a young girl's life as it progresses from normal to complete chaos in the course of a year.[5]


The video features a young British girl experiencing the effects of a hypothetical civil war on the streets of London, by showing a second a day of her life for several days over the span of a year, from one birthday anniversary of hers to the next.[6][8]

In the opening scene, the girl is at her birthday party, with her parents and friends near her, and a cake with candles in front of her. She is asked to make a wish. Throughout the early part of advert, she continues to live an ordinary life with loving family and friends, but soon London is engulfed in war. By the end of the video, she has lost her father while running with her mother. On her next birthday, she is seen at a hospital bed and is again presented by her mum with a cake and a candle and asked to make a wish.[9][10] The video ends with the line "Just because it isn't happening here doesn't mean it isn't happening."[11] It is revealed at the end that the video is based on true stories of what children living through the Syrian Civil War experienced, and highlights the work of Save the Children to improve the lives of children in Syria and around the world.[5]


The ad was released on 5 March 2014. It received news coverage immediately in many UK newspapers and magazines including The Independent,[12] Telegraph,[9] Huffington Post (UK),[3] Express,[7] Metro, and The Mirror.[10] It was also covered in international media such as Time Magazine,[13] Adweek,[14] Al Arabiya,[15] and the Washington Post.[16] The coverage in the Washington Post noted that the video would only seem shocking to people who had not experienced or read closely about the lived experiences of people who had gone through civil wars, and highlighted the newspaper's profiles of refugees from civil wars.[17]

The video acquired more than 23 million views on YouTube in less than a week.[18] The reasons for its virality were dissected by a number of commentators, including Fairsay[19] and The Drum.[5] The following factors were identified: strong emotions, a video title ("Most Shocking Second a Day") that created what Upworthy has called a "curiosity gap" by providing just enough information to make people click to want to know more, and a smart initial paid promotion and publicity in the right circles.[19] The video was also listed as the first of five highly successful nonprofit branded videos in the first quarter of 2014.[8][20]

In November 2014, American actor Ashton Kutcher posted an A Plus article about the video on his Facebook page (A Plus is a website co-founded by Kutcher, who is also Chairman of the Board).[11][21] This resulted in 10 million page views of the video and made it the second most-viewed brand video of the week on YouTube.[22]

As of May 2019, the video has accumulated over 62 million views on YouTube.[1] According to Don't Panic London's website, the video was featured twice on the Reddit front page, was shared 920,000 times, and caused Save the Children's YouTube channel subscriptions to increase by over 1000%.[4]


  1. ^ a b SaveTheChildren (5 March 2014). "Most Shocking Second a Day Video". YouTube. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  2. ^ Mortimer, Natalie (5 March 2014). "Save The Children launch hard-hitting "If London was Syria" campaign". The Drum. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  3. ^ a b "If London Were Syria: Harrowing Save The Children Video Shows Impact Of War On A Single Child". 7 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Most Shocking Second-a-Day Video". Don't Panic London. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d McQuater, Kate (7 April 2014). "Anatomy of an Ad: Behind the scenes of Save the Children's 'second a day' Syria ad". The Drum. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  6. ^ a b Radnedge, Aidan (5 March 2014). "Haunting video shows Syrian civil war chaos coming to London". Metro. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  7. ^ a b "VIDEO: Shocking second a day clip shows how British child's life could be hit by war". Express. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  8. ^ a b Sharman, Jay (24 April 2014). "Going Beyond the Numbers with 2014's Nonprofit Viral Videos". Teamworks Media (blog). Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Shocking second a day video imagines war in London. This hard-hitting video charts how a British child's life would change if the country were to descend into civil war". Telegraph. 5 March 2014. Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
  10. ^ a b Best, Jessica (6 March 2014). "Shocking video shows what life would be like for Britain's children if war came to the UK". Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  11. ^ a b Bakutyte, Justina (5 November 2014). "She Filmed Herself One Second A Day For A Year, The Footage Gave Us Shivers. "Just because it isn't happening here doesn't mean it isn't happening."". A Plus. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  12. ^ Williams, Rob (4 March 2014). "If London were Syria: Save The Children campaign releases unsettling video". The Independent. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  13. ^ Luckerson, Vick (5 March 2014). "Most Shocking Second a Day Ad Is Exactly That". Time Magazine. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  14. ^ Nudd, Tim (5 March 2014). "Three Years Later, We Finally Have a Brutally Powerful Ad About the Crisis in Syria A girl's life destroyed in one second a day". Adweek. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  15. ^ "If Britain were Syria: charity releases 'brutally powerful' ad". Al Arabiya. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  16. ^ Jennings, Natalie (6 March 2014). "Save the Children 'Second a Day' ad is shocking, until you see a real Syrian child refugee". Washington Post. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  17. ^ "Refuge". Washington Post. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  18. ^ McKechnie, Brian (7 March 2014). "Save the Children PSA imagines civil war in the UK". Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  19. ^ a b Roaf, Richard (12 March 2014). "Why did the Save the Children Syria video go viral? Only four days after Save the Children launched the "Most Shocking Second a Day Video" it had reached 21 million views". Fairsay. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  20. ^ Russell, Mallory (7 April 2014). "2014: The Year Of The Nonprofit In Branded Video". Media Post. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  21. ^ Kutcher, Ashton (6 November 2014). "Not what you think". Facebook. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  22. ^ Johnson, Lauren. "Save the Children Spot Gets Another Run on YouTube Thanks to Ashton Kutcher". Adweek.

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