The Romans reimagines dystopian classic ‘1984’ for privacy campaign

The Romans has reimagined and released George Orwell’s seminal dystopian novel ‘1984’ as ‘2021’ in a campaign for its client, digital security and privacy firm Avast.

Matt Smith plays the role of Winston Smith in the audiobook release
Matt Smith plays the role of Winston Smith in the audiobook release

The Romans' campaign for Avast aims to highlight the similarities between increasing online surveillance and the Big Brother society predicted by the author in his novel, written in 1949.

In the audiobook release, which has been made available on Apple and Spotify, Matt Smith, star of Dr Who and The Crown, plays the role of protagonist Winston Smith.

2021 from The Romans on Vimeo.

Commenting on the campaign, Smith said: “Nineteen Eighty-Four is a literary classic and Winston is a fascinating character, so to be able to bring the story into the modern day is an honour. I’ve got involved in this project as I feel having digital freedom online is so important in today’s society.”

In addition, the book’s original cover has been reimagined for the modern day by designer Rodrigo Corral, a previous artistic collaborator with American NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The campaign has already featured in Forbes, The Independent, Metro, Evening Standard, The Mirror and The Sun since its launch this week.

Joe Mackay-Sinclair, founder of and creative at The Romans, said: “Our starting point with any campaign is to look to the cultural reference points that inform and shape the conversation we want to be part of. Here, with the incredibly simple substitution of just four numerals, Avast is able to make a powerful statement about the times we’re living in.”

According to Avast research, more than four-fifths of the public think the novel’s themes of hyper-surveillance are coming true today, while more than two-thirds are concerned their online activity might be monitored by the sites and apps they use. Nearly half said they no longer believe online privacy even exists.

Shane McNamee, chief privacy officer at Avast, said the company believes online privacy is a fundamental human right.

He said: “Online interactions which involve people’s personal data aren’t just economic transactions, but instead are inextricably linked to digital identity or personality.

“By being informed about and reviewing the personal data consumers allow access to, and having the right tools to help take back control of their online existence, users can take steps to better protect themselves online.”

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