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Last week our series "Today Takes Action" kicked off on The Today Show. I just got back from 30 Rock where Peggy Conlon (our president/CEO) appeared on the show to make the big announcement. It was great fun but only one of many highlights throughout this journey getting the series off the ground.
I remember the day it all got started like it was yesterday. It was a busy day this past September when my phone rang in the early afternoon. I saw all of the 4s on my caller ID and recognized that it was NBC…but thought it might be an NBC affiliate that wanted our PSAs. In fact, it was a producer from TODAY named Robin Sindler who said she had an idea.
Each of TODAY's anchors (Matt, Al, Savannah and Natalie) would adopt a campaign (from our 50) that was close to their hearts. They would star in new PSAs which would debut during a weeklong series that would give viewers in-depth look at four social issues and a behind-the-scenes look at the "making of" the PSAs. It was one of those unbelievable rare moments where I thought I might be dreaming. I tried to play it cool and say something like – "I think we would be open to that."
Throughout the next 3 months, I got the chance to join in-person meetings with our volunteer ad agencies and TODAY's anchors to brainstorm various creative ideas for the PSAs…attend all of the shoots…and see it all come together from rough cut to the final finished PSAs.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all just fun…there were more than a few challenges…finding incremental money from our partners for this amazing opportunity…coordinating meetings/shoots for TODAY's anchors (who have insane schedules) and our ad agencies (conveniently, none were based in NYC)…setting up PSA shoots outside in winter weather…getting so many agencies/campaign sponsors/people to agree on the best strategy, etc.
But, I did learn a LOT in the process. FYI: I've been at the Ad Council for over 10 years in the PR/social media group but I usually don't get to see the "making of" aspect of the PSAs. I learned…
…Some hysterically funny, and oftentimes embarrassing, ideas get tossed around in those agency strategy meetings (where TODAY's anchors participated)
…Those anchors have incredible stamina – after a 3 a.m. wake-up they joined us for 8 hour shoots—many of which involved serious physical activity
… Just like with the movies, filming just one second of a TV spot can take hours upon hours
…Those food services trucks at the shoots provide an endless array of goodies, which help you add the winter weight very quickly
…TODAY's anchors have a great sense of humor and enormous strength and flexibility – Savannah lifts tables. I was in awe of Natalie's workout routine. And Matt can fit himself into the smallest and best hiding places.
…Al is both water and weatherproof.
…There is a dog trainer out there who really is "a dog whisperer" and Natalie's dog Zara sounds a lot like Jenna Elfman.
…Al rides his bike around the city to meetings.
…Our ad agencies and TODAY's anchors have a true and genuine commitment and passion for the issues addressed by the new PSAs.
…And lastly, that it's incredibly rewarding to work on a project like this, both personally and professionally.
A special thanks to all of the ad agencies (Campbell Ewald, Leo Burnett, Cutwater and Draftfcb) for their quick and brilliant thinking…and to all of our partners who made this process such a fun collaboration (HHS, FEMA, Feeding America, the Humane Society of the U.S. and Maddie's Fund.
The first PSA was unveiled this morning – it's Matt Lauer on behalf of our Fatherhood Involvement campaign. TODAY aired a poignant set-up which really shows the impact dads can have on kids' lives by just putting in the time.
Tune in every day this week (through Thursday) to watch more of these segments.
And check back at Adlibbing every day for coverage of the series, including posts from our ad agencies and campaign partners who worked on the PSAs.
You can also follow the hashtag #TODAYTakesAction to join the conversation and visit TODAY's website to learn more, watch the PSAs and read Q&As with the anchors!
Ellyn covers the intersection of PR, new media and social good, chronicling emerging tactics & best practices. She has over 10 years of experience in PR and currently volunteers for both the American Cancer Society and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Ellyn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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