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


TORONTO (Feb. 16, 2022) — 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 Films

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 

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