Creative people always complain that we don't get enough time for ideas,
for executions and certainly for production. In this case we had minutes
and hours to do what normally takes weeks and months, from assignment
to wrap to on air. It would take a disaster the size of the tsunami of
December 26, 2004 to make that happen.
Tuesday, January 2nd, 2005, 8:00 am:
I am in the bathroom getting ready for work when I get an e-mail on my
Blackberry from John Dooner, the CEO of McCann Erickson World Group. It
says the Ad Council is getting pressure to deliver "inventory"
(TV, radio and print ads) to the media over the tsunami tragedy. Would
I call Peggy Conlon? Peggy says there is no time to waste. Former Presidents
George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton want to make a commercial. ASAIP. (As
soon as inhumanely possible.) The Ad Council needs a partner. Were we
Noon, that same day:
I have to pick a small team quickly. People who I trust, who can hit the
ground running, who can write quickly and execute without decision-anxiety.
I pick Keith Evans and Jeff Taylor in creative, Nat Puccio, Director of
Strategic Planning, Kathy Love, Executive Producer and Sallie Mars, our
Director of Creative Services. We meet on the phone with the Chief of
Staff of former President Bush (referred to at the White House as "41")
and an aide for Clinton ("42"). It's decided that we would fly
to the White House on Friday and film (we don't use our usual terminology
of "shoot") the two former presidents asking Americans to contribute
to the relief of the tsunami-ravaged countries.
4:30 pm, that same day:
Peggy Conlon asks if we can move the shoot from Friday to Wednesday at
4:00 (24 hours away) when Clinton is already scheduled to be at the White
House. He doesn't want to make a second trip on Friday. We say the only
thing we can possibly say under the circumstances: "Sure." The
director, Hank Perlman with Hungry Man (who has agreed to do the job for
out-of-pocket costs only) says the same thing.
Midnight, that same day:
Working closely with Nat Puccio, Keith Evans and Jeff Taylor have a script
for a :60, a :30, a :15 and a :10 commercial. I approve it by 1:00 am.
We e-mail them to Peggy Conlon. She approves and will get them approved
by the staff of 41 and 42.
7:30 am the next morning:
We meet to discuss logistics. The team leaves for the airport. At noon
Clinton's plane has still not left the Westchester Airport due to weather
conditions. It finally takes off at 2:00. The filming is scheduled for
4:00 in the library of the East Wing, the residential side of the White
House. We have one hour with the two men.
5:30 pm, Wednesday, January 5th:
It's a wrap. Bush and Clinton are pros in front of the camera. Their easy
camaraderie with each other is evidence of a long-standing friendship
between the two men and they are breezy with each other and very charming,
gracious and professional with the crew. They personally shake everyone's
hand before and after the filming, thanking everyone for our quick action.
Thursday, January 6th:
We edit 5 commercials. In the meantime, I have brought in Casanova Pendrill
our Hispanic agency affiliate to do TV, radio and print and MRM, a McCann
World Group company to prepare banner ads. Keith and Jeff supervise print
and radio from McCann
while they are editing. Since Hispanic stations
will not accept spots in English, dubbed spots or spots with subtitles,
Casanova has to create new spots from scratch without using the two presidents
Click image to view commercial
Friday, January 7th:
Rough cuts go to the Ad Council and the White House. We revise, conform,
mix, and finish by midnight.
Saturday, January 8th:
The spots go to the Ad Council for indexing, etc.
Sunday morning, January 9th:
The commercials are on the air. The web banners, print, Hispanic versions
are released the following days. This whole process has taken 6 days.
Under normal conditions it would take two to three months.
Everyone who has worked on this has gotten little or no sleep for four
consecutive days and one of the more awesome experiences of their careers.
"An amazingly exhausting, exhilarating experience. I would do it
again in a heart beat."
- Keith Evans
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