DDB, Ad Council Serve Up GED Pep Talks
April 25, 2012 by Andrew Schneider
A new PSA campaign that’s just broken from DDB Chicago offers pep talks to GED candidates: from celebrities.
The campaign is the product of creatives at DDB lead by Scott Kemper, executive producer, and Jon Ellis, executive producer of Digital and the teams at Wondros Films and Cutters Studios.
“From a conceptual standpoint it started well over a year ago,” says Kemper. “There was a notion that people needed to be motivated to go and get their GEDs. But how do you motivate people?”
Pep talks, thought Matt Collier and Wayne Robinson, creative directors who just joined the agency last August.
“If you want a job in America 89 percent of businesses require you to have a GED diploma, yet 35 million Americans don’t have one,” the two said. “Before we could get these people back into the workplace, we had to get them back into the classroom. We had to find a way to motivate them. Daniel-san had Mr. Miyagi to motivate him. Rocky had Micky. But who do these high school dropouts have?
They knew they couldn’t talk to all these people with one voice, so we set up the GED pep talk center and had 13 voices, so everyone could find a voice that would motivate them.
“The essence of the idea is that everyone needs a different level of push to get into their GED,” Ellis says. “The trick was to pick celebrities at the extremes of the scale so that just by seeing them you’ll know what kind of push you’re going to get.”
“We had to tap into the equity that their personalities brought into the table,” Kemper agreed. “Different people require different levels of pep talks."
From there, they developed the idea of a series of pep talks varying in intensity. But to make them effective, they’d need to have archetypal figures that were instantly recognizable.
“We developed the idea of a spectrum of pep talks all the way from gentle to aggressive,” Kemper says.
Celebrities, especially those that are typecast would be perfect, the team thought and the response was tremendous. The final tally: 13 celebrity pep talks.
It was green lit by the Ad Council and developed over a six month period. The shoot was two days, one in Los Angeles and the other in New York and set the celebrities in a “call center” type location offering encouragement to those seeking their GEDs.
And the team didn’t want it to be just a series of spots – they wanted to reach as many people as possible.
“I think once the idea was kind of sold through we as the agency looked at all the ways we could make this a truly integrated campaign to reach as many people as possible,” says Ellis. “That means theater ads, television, web, videos on YouTube and Vimeo along with print.”
“You can get a face-to-face pep talk online, or you can also call a hotline and use the numbers on your key pad to choose a level of pep talk,” the creatives say. “We also set up a specialized text service where by you can text the name of a celebrity pep talker and they will call you back with a pep talk. Posters, TV commercials, radio, online banners and a PR push all directed people to the Pep talk center.”
The challenge, with so much donated time, from the agency to the production and editorial through finish and media placement, is to make the idea and the campaign as strong as possible.
The idea was strong enough to attract a great deal of celebrity interest.
“We originally planned on a two-day shoot in LA,” Kemper said. “But As things unfolded, we realized there was a lot of talent in LA and New York.”
The celebrity interviews were constantly in flux too. One would have a conflict and need to reschedule, but rescheduling that talent meant others couldn’t make it. That flexible schedule
“Up to the very last minute the production schedule was changing,” Kemper says. “It was certainly one of the most challenging productions I’ve been on. Usually we have a week or two to prep, but in this situation the main variable, the talent, was in flux up until the moment we started the cameras. All I can say is that this was the mother of unorthodox productions.”
And they couldn’t have pulled it off without their partners, Director Jesse Dylan, Wondros Films, Grant Gustafson and Jaime Valdueza, editors from Cutters and the digital team at picnic new media who created the web interface at yourged.org.
“It’s a good cause and fun project,” says Gustafson. “It’s cool to be working with celebrity talent and Scott’s great to work with too. Securing that many celebrities on two specific days was a tremendous effort on Scott’s part. They were really worried about making it all look like one space, one call center, when shooting two different days and locations, but they did a great job making it look seamless.”
For Gustafson, the challenge was to take the comedic component of the interviews and keep it without losing the central premise behind the pep talk campaign.
“On the first edit we were going down this path that it started to feel like an episode of the office,” he says. “It was really funny, but we realized that there’s this idea, levels of pep talk and we wanted that idea that come across, rather than just full-boat entertaining.”
“The final cut, looked nothing like the first couple of cuts,” Gustafson continued. “But people still laugh, I don’t think we had to sacrifice that much comedy to get the idea across.”
Cutters had recently hired Jaime Valdueza in Los Angeles and was also able to cut the Spanish-language versions of the campaign. But the partnership extended to the digital space as well with Picnic’s contribution.
“From a digital perspective, as a site architect, we had to work off of placeholders and silhouettes, relying that Kemper would bring in great content,” Ellis says. “We were just trying to remain completely flexible. It was great to have Cutters and Picnic on board because they had to be as flexible as we had to be. It was almost impossible to create a schedule. At one point we were going to have fifteen pep talks and then it looked like as few as seven. We had to develop and be flexible from that point of view and they helped out a lot.”
Picnic developed the interface at yourged.org, using Vimeo as a backbone and HTML5 to create a site that would deliver pep talks to candidates in a seamless way across platforms from computers to tablets to smartphones.
Jim Shanley, managing director at picnic said that working on the campaign wasn’t only a good cause but also a chance to collaborate for the first time with DDB and with the editorial group at Cutters.
“The content was really exciting,” Shanley says. “We get to work on cool projects in digital world but not always paired with celebrity talent. On our side, the quality of web initiatives are hit and miss so that was really exciting here too.”
Shanley says that there was nothing tremendously innovative about the interface designed for the content, but that it’s always a technical challenge to make the content look and work well across multiple platforms.”
That’s thanks to Joe Sciacchitano and Chris Calabrese, the creative development team.
“It was in our wheelhouse,” Sciacchitano says of the project. “But there were some challenges for the iPad. Just making sure we can match all the visuals and please the parties involved to make the design come to life.”
The Vimeo interface, for example, was something everyone agreed on.
“There were challenges with Vimeo just because their API is younger that YouTube’s,” Shock says. “But the client and we like Viemo better.”
The most challenging design aspect was the slider bar below the interviews on the home page.
“When you transition something like that to iPad you have to deal with items that are click and drag, because the Safari browser, by its nature, clicks and grabs to scroll.”
Despite the challenges ranging from technology to scheduling, working on a project with a public-spirited message is rewarding for everyone.
“It’s a long hard process just because you have a lot of vendors and people trying to coordinate and donate their time and effort,” Ellis says. “At the end, when we launched the other day, everyone felt very proud of the work they‘d completed.”
“Working on PSAs, although at the time it can be frustrating because of lack of money, it’s ultimately very rewarding because of the notion that we’re doing what we can to try and make things better out there in the world.”
And the creatives were thrilled with the final execution too.
“We thought we were onto something, but a real team effort helped it evolve into a much bigger, more impactful clear piece of communication,” they say. “We're surprised with how smoothly it all went to be honest, apart from the day before the shoot when our original 'level 13 pep talker' pulled out. Thankfully Mr. Trejo came to the rescue. We're thrilled with how it has turned out and the range of celebrities that got on board to help with this project. To be on set and hear DMC rap his GED pep talk was a great moment – We can really see this campaign motivating people and making a big difference.”
Agency – DDB Chicago
Chief Creative Officer : Ewan Paterson
Creative Director : Alex Zamiar
Creative Director: Jonathan Richman
Creative Director/AD/CW: Matt Collier
Creative Director/AD/CW: Wayne Robinson
Executive Producer: Scott Kemper
Executive Digital Producer: Jon Ellis
Producer: Shanae' Diewold
Graphic Designer: Lindsey Stuart
Executive Producer of Music and Integration :Eric Johnson
Associate Music Producer : Jocelyn Brown
Director/Production Company - Jesse Dylan/Wondros Films
Editor/Post House - Grant Gustafson/Jaime Valdueza (Spanish version). Cutters Editorial
Interactive Development - picnic new media
Color correction/finishing - Filmworkers
Music - Hum Music