Chimney New York
1 month ago
When choosing a mascot for your public health campaign, a fictional serial killer may not appear as the most logical first choice. But then, we don’t live in logical times.
For Chimney and Ogilvy Health, the lead character of Friday The 13th was the perfect fit to remind New Yorkers how important it is to wear a mask. In a new PSA, we witness a previously unseen side to Jason Voorhees as he solemnly attempts to build a normal life on the streets and subway lines of New York City. The only thing he’s missing, it turns out, is the right kind of mask.
The light-hearted ad has won plaudits for hitting the right tone, and has received a surge of coverage outside of NYC, including on NBC’s Today show.
To go behind the scenes of the successful spot, we spoke to Chimney director Sam O’Hare, and Ogilvy Health’s executive creative director Toby Trigg.
Q > Congratulations on a great ad! When you look at the finished product, is that true to your vision when you started out?
Toby > Oh, I think it’s even better than we hoped. As Sam will attest to, we had shots planned out but a lot of it fell into place on the day. For example, him taking the selfie in front of the statue of liberty. For the bit where he rides a bike, we were asking the crew if anyone had an account with Citi Bike! So it was super spontaneous, and I gotta say a big part of being able to do it like that was Sam and Chimney’s technical setup being so good. We were able to move really quickly around the city and shoot very easily.
Sam > Yeah we had a list of the shots we wanted to get of course, but also left time in the day to see what ideas came up while we shot and what the talent could bring. It’s always good to leave room for serendipity! I’m really happy with how it came out, the overall feel is definitely what I was aiming for.
Q> Given how quiet the streets must be, is lockdown making it any easier for you to film?
Sam > Yes and no. We had a short schedule and when we scouted the day before the shoot, and we discovered that a few places we wanted to use were inaccessible because of Covid. Half of Grand Central Terminal and the S train were shut down, for example. It’s true that streets are emptier which is nice for filmmakers, but you’ve also got social distancing rules to contend with on-set, so overall it adds more complexity than it takes away, I think. It was harder for the talent to take my cues at a distance because of the mask for example, as he couldn’t see my mouth moving, and we did all company moves on foot and by subway rather than using vehicles. That meant all our gear had to be handheld or worn at all times. We scouted by bike!
This was very much a team effort. Besides our hero who we went through a casting agency for, everyone else you see in the ad is a Chimney employee, friend, or family member. The dog is my corgi, Pippa!
Q> Watching the spot, what really stands out is the tone. Why do you think that light-hearted approach hit the mark for so many viewers?
Toby > When we wrote the script, it did have a melancholy feel to it. But it was about a week in when Sam suggested that it needed a redemption story at the end. Because we just had this idea about Jason living in Manhattan, but it was Sam who put forward the idea that he’s wearing the wrong kind of mask. So we knocked around this idea of him putting on the right mask, and came up with the girl at the end giving him that moment of redemption where she helps him out and they nod to each other. I think it was at that point that we all knew we’d got the tone just right.
Sam > Yeah, absolutely. I think that moment at the end is what almost gives us the permission to have a bit of fun with the rest of it.
Toby > I mean, so much of the feedback we’ve had so far has been people messaging us to say that this is just what was needed for this moment we’re in now. There’s been an awful lot of piano keys over a voiceover telling us that we’re in it together. I think audiences are very happy to move on from that, and although comedy is a fine line to walk in this environment, we didn’t want to either pander or tell people what to do.
Q > So then is this an ad which is right for this precise moment, but maybe wouldn’t have quite worked a few months ago?
Toby > I think there’s something in that, yes. Because we’re at a point now where most people know they need to wear a mask. They’ve absorbed the message about how crucial it is to wear one, especially with the second wave we have coming now. The feeling has reached a kind of ‘lockdown ennui’ here in New York, I think, so a more creative way of getting the message out is being welcomed.
Q > Another thing that comes out of the spot is that, almost immediately, we feel a sense of sympathy for Jason. How did you manage to achieve that?!
Sam > Haha, well as Toby says we did aim for that kind of melancholic feeling, which helps with that. I wanted to shoot it in an observational style to try and play on that, just following him around on a normal day so we’d get a sense of his experience, and how people react to him.
Toby > Yeah we want to feel empathy for him. Look, all that stuff with Camp Crystal Lake is in the past! He’s moved to New York and he’s just trying to live his life! There’s actually this brilliant moment in the spot - Sam I’m not sure if you directed this or he just did it on his own - but he does this move that we’ve ALL done in the New York subway where he swipes his card to get in, but it doesn’t recognise his card and the barrier hits him right in his thigh. Like, every New Yorker knows that feeling! So it’s little moments like that which add up to humanise him and make a sympathetic character out of, well, a serial killer.
Above: A gallery of behind-the-scenes images from the campaign, provided by Chimney and Ogilvy Health.
Q > Looking in from the outside, it seems as though wearing a mask has become something of a politically charged issue in the US. Did you ever feel as though you were making the ad in the middle of a politically contentious context?
Toby > Honestly, I would say that it’s really not politically charged at all. There may be some radicals who make a lot of noise and that gets reported and shared, but I don’t feel like it’s a big thing. Everyone knows it’s important to wear a mask. And I have to say, out of all the comments I’ve seen on LinkedIn, Twitter and places the ad has been shared, I haven’t seen a single one that pushes back against the idea of wearing a mask.
Sam > Yep, it’s about following the science. The science shows that wearing a mask reduces the spread and is a way we can help control it. There was no political intent with this at all.
Q > Going back to the tone of the ad, do you feel that the success of this ad will make advertisers more confident to start using humour in their ads again?
Toby > Yes, I hope so. But having said that, it also has to be the right brand. If you’re a brand who’s known for having great humour in their ads I think you can go back to that place, because consumers expect it. The other thing to say is that we weren’t shooting for a brand, here! So we didn’t have all of the layers of approval that might come along with that, which perhaps enabled us to be a bit braver.
Q > Besides the Covid restrictions, were there any other significant challenges? And if so, how did you overcome them?
Sam > Honestly, it went pretty smoothly. We had to be really nimble – I built everything onto my gimbal rig we needed including a transmitter and USB battery for it that allowed me to broadcast the video signal and let Toby and Glenn Conte, our editor, watch everything realtime on their phones via wifi.
The problems we did face tended to stem from the restrictions as some places which may have been open for filming understandably were not. One thing we were trying to get was him interacting with somebody working a food truck or something like that, and having him get turned down. We were on the lookout for that but the couple that were open didn’t agree!
Q > And if you could do one thing differently, would you?
Toby > Oh, wow. That is genuinely such a tough question because I think we’re all super happy with how it all turned out. I’m trying to think….
Sam > I agree. I don’t have that feeling I sometimes do where I really wish we’d got something we weren’t able to. We did have to do one pickup of a shot we skipped over – the opening shot of him hailing the cab from the front, which got missed in the hustle of the day. Once we got that into the edit, I was feeling great about it.
Toby > I think the only thing I could say here is that there were ideas we had which we couldn’t scout because of Covid. For example you see him doing the crossword, right. In New York there are these places where you get free newspapers and we wanted to get a shot of him doing a typical New Yorker thing where he went to one of those kiosks and got a paper, but they were all closed. So the stuff we might have done differently, I don’t think we could have done given the circumstances!
Q > Finally, any parting thoughts?
Sam > I think the reaction we’ve seen has been better than anything we could have hoped. Getting picked up by TV news and national morning shows in the US has been especially rewarding.
Toby > The tone has clearly struck a nerve. As a kind of counter-weight to everything we’ve been seeing for the last four months, I think this spot gives that heartwarming feeling that is long overdue. So let’s hope to see more of that from now on!
Categories: Health, Corporate, Social and PSAsChimney New York, 1 month ago