Modern Witch Trials

Agency: JOAN London


JOAN London has created a powerful new advertising campaign for The Cybersmile Foundation to combat the growing threat of cyberbullying and online abuse. The campaign, Modern Witch Trials, which includes a short film directed by Chromista’s Eliza McNitt, aims to raise awareness of online harassment and spark a conversation about finding kinder ways to address problematic behaviour online.

Drawing parallels with the Salem Witch Trials, which began 332 years ago this month, the film concludes with the central message that "Mob Justice Isn’t New. It Just Got a Tech Upgrade”, directing people to The Cybersmile Foundation website for information on how to engage more productively online.

Born out of the rise of cancel culture, the campaign builds on the idea that cyberbullying and social media retribution are becoming more widespread, both for celebrities and those who are not in the public eye. It stresses how online harassment can affect anyone with a social media presence and that it is critical to not only highlight this increasingly prevalent issue but also start the dialogue about how we can build a more compassionate digital community.

The film will be released, in partnership with Pearl & Dean, across all of their UK Cinemas in the run-up to Safer Internet Day (6th Feb), as well as on social media.

It was produced by Chromista, the production company of Hollywood director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan and The Whale), Ted Robbins, Adina Birnbaum, Jeff Baron, and Scott Franklin. It was directed by Emmy Award nominee and Venice Film Festival winner Eliza McNitt – all big supporters of The Cybersmile Foundation’s mission and work.

Tom Ghiden, Managing Director at JOAN London, said: “The anonymity of our online lives and ease of response, combined with the desire to be seen as empathetic and socially conscious, has resulted in increasing mob behaviour online. People being targeted may have made poor decisions, or behaved problematically, but this creative is designed to make people question whether vicious retribution is warranted, or if there are more productive ways to drive evolution”.

“At JOAN London, we want to be a part of the solution. We love the work Cybersmile has done, and we are extremely proud to have worked with such a brilliant extended team to tackle this very complex and polarising issue, and bring this campaign to life.”

Scott Freeman, Founder of Cybersmile Foundation, added: “This campaign reflects Cybersmile’s founding principles and mission: that everyone should have an equal right to access and enjoy our connected world. We hope that this inspires viewers to think about their online behaviour and consider whether their posts and responses contribute to a safer and more positive internet experience.”

Director Eliza McNitt adds: "I was deeply inspired by JOAN London's bold vision in tackling this campaign for CyberSmile. As collaborators, I admired the trust they invested in all the artists who brought this to life to create an abstract and experimental visual world that captures the unnerving feeling of mob justice in the dark corners of the internet."

Cristina Duffy, Head of Agency Trading Pearl & Dean says: “We are thrilled to partner with the Cybersmile Foundation to showcase this powerful film. We know that Cinema advertising reaches consumers in an exclusive, distraction-free environment and this in turn encourages deeper messaging, which is key around such important campaigns.”

Executive Producer Camila De Biaggi at The Mill says: “In partnership with JOAN London and Chromista, The Mill designed and brought to life all the campaign's graphics and digital components. We have a longstanding collaboration with Eliza, and we are thrilled to continue working together. The spot was graded by Elodie Ichter and led by Yoon Bae. Eliza has once again placed her trust in us, and we feel fortunate, especially given the current societal focus on digital harassment. We are eager to spread awareness with this powerful film.”

The Quarry oversaw editorial for the film. Original score was composed by Josh Loucka and produced by The Teenage Diplomat, with Sonic Union and engineer Rob Ballingall responsible for the sound design and mix.

This professional campaign titled 'Modern Witch Trials' was published in United Kingdom and United States in February, 2024. It was created for the brand: Cybersmile, by ad agency: JOAN London. This Digital and Direct media campaign is related to the Public Interest industry and contains 1 media asset. It was submitted 22 days ago.


Agency: JOAN London
Agency contact: Tom Ghiden
Client name: Scott Freeman
Executive Creative Director: Kirsty Hathaway
Copywriter: Fiona White
Art director: Thomas Farrall
Meda Supplier: Pearl & Dean
Production company: Chromista, Adina Birnbaum
Director: Eliza McNitt
DOP: Minka Farthing-Kohl
Audio Postproduction: Sonic Union, Rob Ballingall
Managing Partner: Charlotte Coughlan

VFX: The Mill
Executive Producer: Camila De Biaggi
Creative Director: Matt Pascuzzi
2D Lead: Yoon Bae
2D Artist: Lucia Hill Barroso, Jaymin Han, Aditi Khosla, Bhanu Prakash Singh Thakur, Sugankumar R C, Kishore R, Amulya Chandra Nayak, Suraj Kumar, Sathya Narayanan, Jegadeesan Velayutham, Avijit Khamarai, Orsu Balasubramanyam, Sushil Palai, Dilip Kumar Dwivedi, Rahul Prakash Srivastava, Rohit Vardha Raj Vardha, Krishnan Palani, Chetan Shelar, Jagannatham Venkata Rakesh, Jaswantsingh Nikam, Suresh K P, Satram Veeravaraprasad, Aditya Kumar, Ramachandran Kannappan, Souvik Samadder, S Nikhilesh, Ankit Shaw, Shiji L S, Mohit Pal
Art Director: Chet Hirsch
Designer: Adrian Navarro, Laura Nash, Amy Staropoli
Producer: Sheila Lobo, Zack Stimell
Production Coordinator: Paola Malo

Colour: The Mill
Colourist: Elodie Ichter
Colour EP: Alex Lubrano
Colour Producers: Colleen Valentino, Joanne Lee
Colour Assist: Sam Ommen, Nick Yelesin

Production Company: Chromista, Inc
Director: Eliza McNitt
Co-Founder & Executive Producer: Ted Robbins
Partner & Executive Producer: Adina Birnbaum
Partner & Managing Director: Jeff Baron
Line Producer: Ray Courtin
Director of Photography: Minka Farthing-Kohl
1st AD: Ariel Ortiz
2nd AD: David Glynn
1st AC: John Sizer
Talent: Mikaela Free (witch), Gabrielle Miller (mob defector)
Casting: Buffalo Casting/Tisha Blood
Choreographer: Jenny Durbin Smith
Production Design: Chad Yaro
SFX: Mike Wilks
Wardrobe: Lillie Miller
HMU: Jenine Galante
Stage: Camp Lucky, Dallas
PAs: Max Soto, David Velez
Storyboards: Phil Langone
VO Casting: Grande Morris casting
VO: Millie Gibbons
Editorial: The Quarry, Geri Docherty

Audio Post Production Company: Sonic Union
EP: Mary Kate Valentino
Sound Design / Mix: Rob Ballingall



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