Robert Pattinson had a bit of a reprieve this week when his newest film, On the Road, premiered to mixed reviews at the Toronto Film Festival. The semi-autobiographical road movie follows the journey of a young man named Tom (Pattinson) and his quest to become a writer. Its premiere coincided with the first ever National Red Nose Day, making it a fitting introduction to this year’s edition of the popular fundraising campaign.

Red Nose Day

Red Nose Day is an annual campaign sponsored by American advertising company Wieden+Kennedy that raises money for charity by encouraging people to wear red noses and take a selfie in front of a pumpkin carved in the shape of a cartoon character’s face. The campaign is designed to be a fun and creative way to get people talking and smiling about philanthropy, while also encouraging an unprecedented level of costume experimentation.

This year’s campaign was the idea of McCann Worldwide and Ogilvy & Kennedy’s North American group, which saw red noses as a way of celebrating the best of British culture and humor. But while the craze caught on quickly, particularly in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., Russia remained stubbornly apathetic, contributing just $0.25 to the Red Nose Day cause.

The decision by the Russian advertising industry to remain on the sidelines may have been a tactical one, considering the country is now in the grip of a fashion and beauty driven marketing plague, which has seen a 300% YOY rise in online beauty product purchases, and £3 billion spent on makeup and skincare products in 2022.

And it’s a situation that’s unlikely to improve any time soon, with the Russian economy expected to shrink by 3% this year, and the World Bank predicting that the country’s rapid economic development has caused a collapse in traditional social structures, and the creation of a ‘gulf’ between the wealthy and the poor.

Pumpkin Carving And Selfies

The inspiration for this year’s Red Nose Day came from an unlikely source: the 2021 San Francisco MVA (Mod Vehicule Art) Festival, billed as the ‘World’s Greatest Pumpkin Carving Competition.’ The festival was the brainchild of Bay Area artist Michael John Carrozza (known as ‘Jackie’ to his friends), who in October 2021 decided to honor the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney’s birth with a pumpkin carving competition.

The impetus for the festival was a challenge from Disney to artists around the world to come up with unique and original ways to celebrate his milestone birthday. One of the designs that stood out was ‘Mouse-Venturing’, a depiction of the mouse heroically venturing into the world of cartoon animals, which is when he famously meets the characters from Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. The design was a collaborative effort by artists from around the world, but Carrozza was particularly proud of the contribution from the U.K., making him an honorary Brit for the day.

The winner of the 100th anniversary contest was a 23-year-old New Yorker named Alex Klementiev, whose entry depicted Mickey Mouse in a military uniform with a grenade in his hand. Klementiev’s design was inspired by the U.S.S.R.’s acceptance of Walt Disney as “one of their own,” following the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as President Franklin Roosevelt’s reference to Mickey as “a fellow New Yorker” in his 1941 speech following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Klementiev was awarded first prize in the military arts division of the San Francisco MVA Festival for his design, as well as a cash prize of $2,000. He told the New York Times that he used the money to purchase a laser cutter so that he could produce more designs for future competitions. Klementiev also collaborated with British artist Joe Johnston on the design of a tuxedo-clad Mickey for a Comic Con event in London that year. The New York Times critic Stephen Bailey wrote that Carrozza’s ‘Mouse-Venting’ was the “most amazing of all the entries, as even those who were not familiar with the Disney character would recognize him instantly in this incredible piece of décoration.”

Carrozza had hoped that the festival would lead to a lucrative commission for a piece of merchandise and asked Disney if he could have the copyright to use the character for profit, according to Bloomberg. Instead, he was offered a lifetime supply of paint for his wall, which he proudly displays to this day.

A Self-reflection Or An Artistic Statement?

While red noses had gained popularity around the world, the overwhelming majority of responses came from North America and the U.K., with the most downloaded designs focusing on the former’s most iconic movie characters. The most popular character last year was Homer Simpson, with responses focusing on the iconic catchphrase “D’oh!” This year saw the character of Winston Churchill, in part due to the British Prime Minister’s 100th birthday in October, attracting over 500,000 downloads and going viral on TikTok.

One designer who garnered instant fame and fortune for her contribution was Rebecca Minklevich of California, whose design of an Octopus taking a selfie, with the background designed in the shape of a nose, was the second most downloaded design of 2021. Minklevich reportedly earned $500,000 for her design, which she displayed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. While some hailed Minklevich’s design as a masterpiece, others felt that the subject matter was a bit too abstract and instead took issue with the fact that she had used a copyrighted photo of a sea creature, which she had not sought permission to do. The museum has now removed the artwork, citing ‘fair use.’

Pro-Tip: What’s Next For Red Nose Day?

While some see red noses as a harmless fad that will have abated by next year, the Wieden+Kennedy team that conceived Red Nose Day see it as a vehicle for self-reflection and an artistic statement. “The beauty industry and the fashion industry have always been at odds, so it is wonderful to see them coming together in solidarity to promote greater cultural understanding and satire,” said Lisa Baird, Wieden+Kennedy’s director of marketing communications and special projects. “No one wins a fight with a clown, so let’s all sit down and have a laugh at America’s expense while propping up the artists and creatives who make this society possible.”