2020 was a year of social and political unrest. The year introduced us to Covid-19 and all the significant challenges of living in a pandemic. However, it was also a year of enormous opportunities. Wanting to get ahead of the downturn in tourism caused by the pandemic, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority approached us last April about creating a series of post-pandemic commercials informing tourists that Charlotte is open for business. And yes, you are correct. We had to film the commercials during a pandemic. Following proper protocols, of course.
Our previous campaigns with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority focused on the marriage between Charlotte and the people that experience our city and give it life. Now faced with the unique challenges of showing that energy and excitement without capturing or recreating it to its fullest, we were incredibly excited to tell this story in an inventive and relevant manner. The project was significant to us. It provided us with the opportunity to create something beautiful, impactful, and efficient in a very uncertain time. We wanted to depict our current reality while infusing the spots with hope and optimism for a brighter future.
Most of the commercials we’d started seeing around this time were drenched in reality and featured Zoom video calls and iPhone footage. We wanted to add a bit of polish, a sense of returning to the expected commercial “look,” to make the spot feel optimistic and somewhat “normal.” We wanted to capture our everyday lives in our homes while confined, but we wanted to present it in a cinematic way. We decided to highlight real people creatively coping with the pandemic, mastering new skills, and anxiously awaiting a return to normalcy. Perhaps a mom with her two kids working together on a small garden in their back yard, a home chef making pasta from scratch, or a woman on a rowing machine imagining herself at the Whitewater Center. We wanted to show what people were doing now that they had so much time on their hands.
Going into full-scale production during a pandemic seemed impossible. Still, we believed this concept lent itself to getting creative and innovative in how we captured the highest quality footage possible while also being socially responsible. We moved forward with pre-production just like any other project but with a twist. We scouted locations and talent virtually. And, we decided to work with local cinematographers and use their families in their homes. We developed storyboards and a fine-tuned shot list and equipped them with the same camera and lighting packages for consistent commercial quality and look. Yes, this approach was creatively and logistically challenging, but it provided us with an excellent opportunity to create something responsibly that was still effective and entertaining.
So, that’s how we made an award-winning commercial during a pandemic.
* We won an American Advertising Federation Addy Award for the "Rediscover Charlotte" Commercials.
Greg Johnson, Managing Director-Orbital Socket